U.S. Republicans say 'not so fast' on restoring FTC power to claw back ill-gotten gains

Signage is seen at the Federal Trade Commission headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Signage is seen at the Federal Trade Commission headquarters in Washington, D.C., U.S., August 29, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

WASHINGTON, April 27 (Reuters) - Republicans at a hearing in the U.S. House of Representatives to discuss restoring the Federal Trade Commission's ability to claw back ill-gotten gains from companies deemed deceptive voiced doubts about quickly passing a bill unless it put some limitations on the agency.

Representative Gus Bilirakis said at a hearing before a panel of the House Energy and Commerce Committee that the FTC had a history of "overreach," without elaborating, and urged that "guard rails" be put into the legislation.

Representatives Neal Dunn and Greg Pence also urged "guard rails" be added to the bill but did not say what they were although there was discussion at the hearing regarding a statute of limitations for wrongdoing.

The bill can pass the House of Representatives without Republican support but will need some Republicans in the Senate, which requires 60 votes to end debate and move to a vote.

The hearing was called in the wake of a Supreme Court decision last week that made it more difficult for the FTC to win back lost funds by ruling that the agency was misusing a measure meant to stop bad behavior, not recover money. read more

Representative Tony Cardenas, along with other Democrats, have introduced a bill to restore that ability. read more

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has also opposed the bill as it stands.

Acting FTC Chair Rebecca Slaughter argued in the hearing that the agency had 24 federal court cases based on the 13(b) authority that was the subject of the Supreme Court ruling. The cases could return $2.4 billion to affected consumers, she said.

Among the active cases are an FTC fight with Nerium International, an alleged pyramid scheme later known as Neora, and Lending Club, which advertised "no hidden fees" and then allegedly charged hidden fees. It also includes four antitrust cases, including one in which jailed "pharma bro" Martin Shkreli is accused of breaking antitrust law to push up the price of a life-saving drug, the FTC said.

Reporting by Diane Bartz in Washington Editing by Matthew Lewis

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