Top con­sumer ad­vo­cate un­der Clin­ton dies at 88

San Antonio Express-News - - BUSINESS -

Robert Pitof­sky, who as chair­man of the Fed­eral Trade Com­mis­sion in the Clin­ton ad­min­is­tra­tion ad­vo­cated for stricter en­force­ment of com­pe­ti­tion and greater pro­tec­tion for con­sumers, died last Satur­day at his home in Chevy Chase, Md. He was 88.

The cause was com­pli­ca­tions of Alzheimer’s dis­ease, his son David said.

Pitof­sky was a lead­ing fig­ure in com­pe­ti­tion law. An an­titrust scholar and a for­mer dean of the Ge­orge­town Univer­sity law school, he wove in and out of gov­ern­ment, pri­vate law prac­tice and academia through­out his ca­reer.

In 1995, Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton ap­pointed Pitof­sky to head theFTC, at the time a sleepy agency re­ferred to as “the lit­tle old lady of Penn­syl­va­nia Av­enue.” Pitof­sky sought to call at­ten­tion to the grow­ing threat of cor­po­rate con­sol­i­da­tion, par­tic­u­larly with the rise of tech­nol­ogy. Dur­ing his ten­ure, the agency be­came the cen­tral watch­dog for the in­ter­net and tech­nol­ogy in­dus­tries.

“There is at this agency a will­ing­ness to chal­lenge the most pow­er­ful com­pa­nies in the world, when those com­pa­nies have done wrong, in the name of the less pow­er­ful,” Pitof­sky said in 2001.

Pitof­sky won sup­port from con­sumer groups that had pushed for greater scru­tiny of merg­ers and stronger con­sumer pro­tec­tion in mat­ters like de­cep­tive ad­ver­tis­ing. But he was also crit­i­cized by free-mar­ket con­ser­va­tives and an­titrust lawyers, who said he was try­ing to ex­pand an­titrust en­force­ment too far.

Pitof­sky’s push to up­date an­titrust pol­icy has echoes to­day, as the FTC is again open­ing de­bate on how it ap­proaches com­pe­ti­tion en­force­ment in the tech sec­tor. Con­sumer groups and law­mak­ers have raised con­cerns that a hand­ful of com­pa­nies, like Ama­zon, Face­book and Ap­ple, have out­size in­flu­ence on the econ­omy even though they ap­par­ently do not vi­o­late an­titrust laws.


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