Office of the General Counsel
Willard K. Tom, General Counsel
The General Counsel is the Commission's chief legal officer and adviser. The office's major functions are representing the Commission in court and providing legal counsel to the Commission, the operating bureaus, and other offices.
The FTC Act authorizes the Commission to represent itself, through its own attorneys, in a variety of actions in federal court. Thus, the office defends actions seeking judicial review of Commission cease and desist orders and trade regulation rules, enforces civil investigative demands and other compulsory process, handles the appellate phase of suits brought by the Commission for preliminary and permanent injunctive relief, and assists the bureaus in actions for injunctive relief in district court. It also cooperates with the Department of Justice in defending actions to enjoin agency action, and furnishes advice and assistance in other litigation activities, including suits for consumer redress and preparing amicus curiae briefs authorized by the Commission.
The office advises the Commission and the staff on issues of law and policy and helps assure Commission compliance with such statutes and regulations as the Administrative Procedure Act, the Government in the Sunshine Act, the Freedom of Information Act, the Civil Service Reform Act, the Ethics in Government Act, and the Commission's Rules of Practice. The office is responsible for proposing necessary amendments to the Rules and various chapters of the Commission's Operating Manual. It also provides advice to the Commission on adjudicative matters and to the Commission and staff on issues concerning the agency's jurisdiction, statutory authority, and administration, including matters relating to regulatory agendas, personnel, contracting, budgeting, and tort claims.
The General Counsel's office prepares responses to formal Congressional requests for information about Commission actions. It conducts or assists with briefings of Congressional staff members and prepares or assists in the preparation of testimony for Congressional hearings. It coordinates the Commission's relations with state Attorneys General and other state and local law enforcement agencies. The office provides opinions to Commissioners and staff concerning avoidance of conflicts of interest, decides applications by former employees for clearance to appear in Commission proceedings, and reviews and certifies financial disclosure reports. It conducts ethics training in accordance with the Office of Government Ethics annual training regulation. The office also decides Freedom of Information Act appeals; requests by state and federal law enforcement agencies for access to nonpublic documents; and requests for confidential treatment, in lieu of placement on the public record, of materials submitted to the Commission. The FTC General Counsel's Office can be reached at (202) 326-2424.