Business

Obama chooses a new FTC chief

Commissione first minority to lead agency

Edith Ramirez, who already sits on the commission, will begin her new post Monday.
Associated Press
Edith Ramirez, who already sits on the commission, will begin her new post Monday.

WASHINGTON — Edith Ramirez, a former appellate and antitrust lawyer who served on the staff of the Harvard Law Review with Barack Obama and later coordinated his campaign’s outreach to Latino voters in California, will be appointed by the president as chairwoman of the Federal Trade Commission, the agency said Thursday. She begins work Monday.

Ramirez would be the first member of an ethnic minority to be appointed to oversee the nearly 100-year-old commission. The FTC is the nation’s primary consumer protection agency and shares responsibility for enforcement of antitrust laws with the Justice Department.

A Southern California native and a daughter of Mexican immigrants, Ramirez has served since April 2010 on the commission, where she voiced strong support for industry self-regulation and for preserving competition.

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By elevating a current commissioner to the top role, the White House avoids having to wait for the Senate to confirm the nomination. Until a nominee for Ramirez’s former seat is approved, however, the commission will have a 2-2 split between Republican and Democratic members.

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‘‘I am deeply honored at the opportunity to lead the Federal Trade Commission,’’ Ramirez said in a statement Thursday. “I look forward to working with my fellow commissioners and the able FTC staff to continue the agency’s proud history of promoting vigorous competition and protecting consumers.’’

The choice has been widely praised by consumer groups, Democratic members of Congress, and former colleagues. It is also significant because it addresses concerns about a lack of diversity among Obama’s advisers and appointees.

People who know Ramirez said that she will offer a different national perspective from the previous chairman, Jon Leibowitz, who announced his resignation in January and who has spent nearly all his career in Washington.

“Coming from the West Coast, with a background in representing individuals and municipal utilities as well as businesses, gives her a balanced vantage point from beyond the Beltway that will serve her well,’’ said Allan Van Fleet, a partner at McDermott Will & Emery who frequently encountered Ramirez when he was chairman of the American Bar Association’s antitrust section.