FTC Chair Ramirez, EU Commissioner Vestager Headline Global Antitrust Enforcement Symposium

September 22, 2016

The role of the Federal Trade Commission, according to FTC Chair Edith Ramirez, is not unlike that of a lifeguard on duty at the beach.

Speaking at the 10th annual Global Antitrust Enforcement Symposium at Georgetown Law on September 20, Ramirez noted that the country is engaged in a public debate over the effectiveness of current U.S. competition policy. Some argue that U.S. markets are too concentrated, with a disproportionate rise in corporate profits; others claim that antitrust agencies often overstep their bounds.

But neither side of the debate, Ramirez claims, understands the benefits and limitations of antitrust enforcement — and how the FTC is striving to strike the right balance. “Like the lifeguard…we have to keep a watchful eye on markets to ensure fair competition that enhances consumer welfare,” said Ramirez, who went on to address some of the criticisms and concerns leveled at the FTC. “We’re not in the business of picking winners or losers; our job is to enforce the rules that safeguard vigorous competition if we see them being broken.”

Moderators at the day-long symposium — including Georgetown Law Professor Steven C. Salop — led panels on hot topics in U.S. and international enforcement and policy; mergers; cartels; a Global Enforcers Roundtable and more. The symposium was hosted by Georgetown Law’s Continuing Legal Education program.

Earlier that morning, participants heard from Acting Assistant Attorney General Renata B. Hesse, head of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division, and EU Commissioner Margrethe Vestager — who spoke of how enforcers can ensure competition for a fairer society.

“People don’t just want to be told that open markets make us better off,” Vestager said. “They want to know that they benefit everyone, not just the powerful few. And that is exactly what competition enforcement is about.”