Jon Leibowitz

Jonathan David Leibowitz (born June 17, 1958) is an American lawyer who served as the Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). He is currently co-chairman of the 21st Century Privacy Coalition, a group that aims to loosen regulations for how companies have to protect consumer's sensitive information.[1] He is also a partner at the law firm of Davis Polk.[1]

For the comedian born Jonathan Leibowitz, see Jon Stewart
Jon Leibowitz
Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission
In office
March 2, 2009  February 15, 2013
PresidentBarack Obama
Preceded byWilliam Kovacic
Succeeded byEdith Ramirez
Personal details
Jonathan David Leibowitz

(1958-06-17) June 17, 1958
Englewood, New Jersey, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Ruth Marcus
ChildrenEmma Rose
Julia Rachel
Alma materUniversity of Wisconsin, Madison (BA)
New York University (JD)

Prior to his work on the FTC and as a lobbyist, Leibowitz worked on Capitol Hill. He served as counsel to the U.S. Senate Antitrust Subcommittee, Senate Subcommittee on Terrorism and Technology, and counsel to Senator Herb Kohl. Leibowitz's career includes working as a lobbyist at the Motion Picture Association of America where he was Vice President for Congressional Affairs (20002004) and as an attorney in private practice in Washington, D.C. (19841986).[2]

Early life and education

Leibowitz grew up in Englewood, New Jersey, where he attended Dwight Morrow High School and was known as a smart kid with many friends.[3] He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Wisconsin with a B.A. in American History (1980) and received his J.D. degree from New York University School of Law in 1984. He is a member of the District of Columbia Bar.[2]

As FTC Commissioner

He was sworn in as a Commissioner on September 3, 2004, and designated Chairman on March 2, 2009 by President Barack Obama. In 2012, the U.S. Senate confirmed Leibowitz's appointment for a second term. He resigned effective February 15, 2013.

Consumer protection

As Chairman, the FTC filed more than 40 law enforcement actions to stop scams that prey on consumers suffering from the economic downturn, such as foreclosure "rescue" and mortgage modification schemes, phony debt-reduction and credit-repair services, bogus government grant opportunities, job scams, and get-rich quick frauds.[4] In one of the largest judgments imposed in an FTC case, Countrywide settled for $108 million with the FTC in June 2010 for collecting excessive fees from cash-strapped borrowers who were struggling to keep their homes.[5] In 2011, the FTC mailed 450,177 refund checks to homeowners who were allegedly overcharged by Countrywide.[6]


Leibowitz was active in preserving competition in the health care and pharmaceutical sectors. He criticized of "pay-for-delay" settlements in the pharmaceutical industry. The Commission aggressively worked at stopping pay-for-delay patent settlements in the pharmaceutical industry. These are deals in which a brand-name drug firm pays its potential generic drug rival to prevent price competition in the market.[7] As Leibowitz explained, the practice results not only in windfalls for both companies—sometimes of more than a billion dollars—but also in higher drug prices for consumers.[8] Leibowitz has published articles on this issue and advocates bringing cases against firms that engage in these practices.[9]

An FTC study released in October 2011 revealed that some pharmaceutical companies continued to engage in pay-for-delay deals in FY 2011. The findings prompted Leibowitz to ask Congress' "Super Committee" to restrict these deals, stating that it could help reduce the deficit and lower the nation's healthcare costs.[10]

Internet, telecommunications and technology

During Leibowitz's tenure, the agency focused on promoting consumer protection, competition and innovation in technology sectors, through both policy initiatives and law enforcement.

The agency released a preliminary staff report December 1, 2010 titled, Protecting Consumer Privacy in an Era of Rapid Change: A Proposed Framework for Businesses and Policymakers. With regard to consumer's online privacy, Leibowitz stated: "The FTC wants to help ensure that the growing, changing, thriving information marketplace is built on a framework that promotes privacy, transparency, business innovation and consumer choice. We believe that's what most Americans want as well."[11]

Also, the FTC proposed revisions to the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) Rule in September 2011 and sought public comments. Leibowitz said the revisions were in response to the rapid changes in technology. "We want to ensure that the COPPA Rule is effective in helping parents protect their children online, without unnecessarily burdening online businesses. We look forward to the continuing thoughtful input from industry, children's advocates, and other stakeholders as we work to update the Rule."[12]

During an October 2011 speech about protecting online consumer privacy while ensuring an internet that generates the free content, Leibowitz coined the term "cyberazzi." He likened invisible online data collection practices to the methods of the paparazzi, who follow celebrities around and photograph them without their permission. "A host of invisible cyberazzi – cookies and other data catchers – follow us as we browse, reporting our every stop and action to marketing firms that, in turn, collect an astonishingly complete profile of online behavior," said Leibowitz.[13]

Under Leibowitz, the Commission settled in August 2010 with Intel to restore competition and innovation that was lost as a result of Intel's alleged anticompetitive actions.[14] In May 2010, the FTC closed its high-profile investigation of Google's proposed acquisition of AdMob, after a long investigation, concluding that it was unlikely to harm competition in the emerging mobile advertising market, citing Apple's move to launch a competing mobile ad network.[15]

As a Commissioner, Leibowitz was also involved in various Internet issues, from fighting spam and spyware to creating effective guidelines for online behavioral targeting (the practice of collecting Internet users' unique browsing history to target advertising), to ensuring that website privacy policies are clear and accessible to consumers.

Leibowitz urged the Commission to "name names" of advertisers who paid to advertise through so-called nuisance adware, software that displays or downloads advertisements on consumers' computers without their consent.[16] Leibowitz has also advocated for balanced "Net Neutrality" rules and for the right of municipalities to offer broadband to consumers free from restrictive state laws.[17]

Advertising and marketing to children

Leibowitz has called for strong industry self-regulatory initiatives to help combat childhood obesity and ensure that only healthier foods and beverages are marketed to America's children.[18] He has also advocated continued review of entertainment industry marketing practices to prevent children from being exposed to inappropriate content. The Commission has completed five reports on this topic since 2000.[19]


The FTC monitors competition in energy markets and released its latest staff report on gasoline prices in September 2011. Leibowitz said the American people need to understand why they often pay so much for gasoline. "Our report spells out the factors that determine what consumers pay at the pump, and why gas prices seem to 'rocket up' but feather down."[20]

Leibowitz was the one commissioner to dissent on a 2007 FTC Report on Spring/Summer 2006 Nationwide Gasoline Price Increases, which found that the increase could be explained by market forces.[21] Leibowitz suggested that the plausible explanation for the increase in gasoline prices, that the Commission found, was not necessarily the only explanation. "The question you ask determines the answer you get," he wrote, "whatever theoretical justifications exist don't exclude the real world threat that there was profiteering at the expense of consumers."[22] Similarly, in an earlier report investigating accusations of price gouging by oil companies after Hurricane Katrina, Leibowitz wrote separately to note that a handful of refiners studied displayed "troubling" conduct.[23]

Competition enforcement

Leibowitz advocated for a re-invigorated enforcement of the FTC Act as a way to stop anticompetitive behavior that can no longer be reached under prevailing judicial interpretation of the antitrust laws. Leibowitz argued that in founding the FTC, "Congress intended to create an agency with authority that extended beyond the limits of the Sherman Antitrust Act."[24] Leibowitz has supported the use of Section 5 of the FTC Act ("unfair methods of competition") beyond the Sherman Act in standard setting cases[25] and in a case involving a failed agreement to fix prices.[26] With Commissioner J. Thomas Rosch (a Republican) and Commissioner Pamela Jones Harbour (an Independent), Leibowitz recently criticized a Department of Justice Report on monopolization, saying that DoJ's approach placed "a thumb on the scales in favor of firms with monopoly or near-monopoly power and against other equally significant stakeholders."[27]

Career after the Federal Trade Commission

In June 2013, Leibowitz joined the Washington D.C. office of the law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP.[28] Leibowitz is also founding Co-Chair of the "21st Century Privacy Coalition," a coalition of telecommunications companies and trade associations[29] focused on relaxing federal privacy laws.[30] The 21st Century Privacy Coalition aims to help companies escape regulations on how they have to handle customer data.[1]

Internet privacy repeal

The 21st Century Coalition and Leibowitz were strong advocates behind April 2017 legislation passed by President Trump that repealed many of the Obama-era regulations on internet privacy, allowing ISPs to sell its users' data.[31][1] Leibowitz told CNN that the bill's effects on privacy are overblown and called complaints "hyper-partisan hyperbole." [32][31] Leibowitz justified his position by claiming that the law would allow a new set of rules for the entire industry.[32]

Personal life

He is married to journalist Ruth Marcus of The Washington Post.[33] The couple have two daughters; Emma Rose and Julia Rachel.[34]


Bloomberg Businessweek named Leibowitz a "Power Broker" in 2011.[35] Leibowitz's "sound bite", a featured quote from all honorees, was "Despite some good actors, self-regulation of privacy … is not working adequately for American consumers. We deserve far better from the companies we entrust our data to."


  1. BRENDAN SASSO (11 May 2015). "The 'Privacy Coalition' That Wants to Trim Data Regulations for Telecom Giants". Retrieved 11 May 2015.
  2. "Federal Trade Commission- Commissioners". Archived from the original on 2009-08-14. Retrieved 2009-11-01.
  3. Diduch, Mary. "FTC chairman returns home to Bergen" Archived 2012-06-22 at the Wayback Machine, The Record (Bergen County), June 20, 2012. Accessed June 21, 2012. "When Jon Leibowitz was growing up in Englewood, his friends and classmates at Dwight Morrow High School knew him as smart kid who didn't flaunt his intelligence, and who was friends with everyone. Few could have imagined he would end up running the Federal Trade Commission, a powerful federal agency with more than 1,000 employees."
  4. "FTC Cracks Down on Con Artists Who Target Jobless Americans," February 17, 2010, Federal Trade Commission Press Release, Available: Accessed 3/3/11.
  5. "Countrywide Will Pay $108 Million for Overcharging Struggling Homeowners; Loan Servicer Inflated Fees, Mishandled Loans of Borrowers in Bankruptcy," June 07, 2010, Federal Trade Commission Press Release, Available: Accessed: 3/3/11.
  6. "FTC Returns Nearly $108 Million to 450,000 Homeowners Overcharged by Countrywide for Loan Servicing Fees," July 20, 2011, Federal Trade Commission Press Release, Available: Accessed: 10/27/11.
  7. Leibowitz, Jon. Statement to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary. Anticompetitive Patent Settlements in the Pharmaceutical Industry: The Benefits of a Legislative Solution, Hearing, January 17, 2007. Available at: Accessed: 11/4/08
  8. George, Jon (March 17, 2006). "Hurdles Ahead for Cephalon". Philadelphia Business Journal. Retrieved 2008-11-04.
  9. Leibowitz, Jon (February 25, 2008). "This Pill Not to be Taken with Competition: How Collusion is Keeping Generic Drugs off the Shelves". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-11-04.
  10. "FTC Study Finds that in FY 2011, Pharmaceutical Industry Continued to Make Numerous Business Deals that Delay Consumers' Access to Lower-Cost Generic Drugs," October 25, 2011, Federal Trade Commission Press Release, Available: Accessed: 10/25/11.
  11. "FTC Staff Issues Privacy Report, Offers Framework for Consumers, Businesses, and Policymakers," December 1, 2010, Federal Trade Commission Press Release, Available: Accessed 3/3/11.
  12. "FTC Seeks Comment on Proposed Revisions to Children's Online Privacy Protection Rule," September 15, 2011, Federal Trade Commission Press Release, Available: Accessed 10/27/11.
  13. References: "Websites leak more info than they know: study," October 2011, Today Tech, MSNBC, Available: Accessed: 10/11/11. Leibowitz, Jon. "Online and Overexposed: Consumer Privacy, the FTC, and the Rise of the Cyberazzi." Oct. 11, 2011. Available: Accessed: 10/11/11.
  14. "FTC Settles Charges of Anticompetitive Conduct Against Intel," August 4, 2010, Federal Trade Commission Press Release, Available: Accessed 3/3/11.
  15. "FTC Closes its Investigation of Google AdMob Deal," May 12, 2010, Federal Trade Commission Press Release, Available: Accessed 3/3/11.
  16. Teinowitz, Ira. "FTC to Point Finger of Shame at Adware Users; Commissioner Threatens to Out Marketers Passing Content Without Consent," Advertising Age, Dec. 5, 2005.
  17. Leibowitz, Jon. (2007, February). Navigating Between Dystopian Worlds on Network Neutrality: With Misery and Wretchedness on Each Side, Can We Find a Third Way? Speech presented at Broadband Connectivity Competition Policy Workshop, Washington, DC. Available: Accessed 11/4/08.
  18. Urken, Ross Kenneth. "FTC Commissioner Tackles Ads for Kids: Official Leads Charge for Food, Drink Firms to Regulate Themselves," The Wall Street Journal, Aug 20, 2008. Available: Accessed 11/4/08
  19. "FTC Issues Report on Marketing Violent Entertainment to Children," Federal Trade Commission Press Release, Apr. 12, 2007. Available: Accessed 11/4/08.
  20. "FTC Issues New Report on Gasoline Prices and the Petroleum Industry," September 1, 2011, Federal Trade Commission Press Release, Available: Accessed: 10/27/11.
  21. "FTC, Antitrust Division Send Report to President on Factors Explaining National Average Price Increases During Spring and Summer of 2006," Federal Trade Commission Press Release, Aug. 30, 2007. Available: Accessed 11/4/08.
  22. Leibowitz, Jon. "Dissenting Statement of Commissioner Leibowitz Regarding the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice Antitrust Division Report on Spring/Summer 2006 Nationwide Gasoline Price Increases," Aug. 30, 2007. Available: Accessed 11/4/08.
  23. Leibowitz, Jon. "Concurring Statement of Commissioner Jon Leibowitz Regarding the Commission's Report, 'Investigation of Gasoline Price Manipulation and Post-Katrina Gasoline Price Increases,'" May 22, 2006. Available: Accessed 11/4/08.
  24. Leibowitz, Jon. (2008, October). "Tales from the Crypt." Episodes '08 and '09: The Return of Section 5 ("Unfair Methods of Competition are Hereby Declared Unlawful"). Speech presented at Federal Trade Commission Workshop: Section 5 of the FTC Act as a Competition Statute, Washington, DC. Available: "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-11-19. Retrieved 2008-11-04.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) Accessed 11/4/08.
  25. Leibowitz, Jon. "Concurring Opinion of Commissioner Jon Leibowitz in the Matter of Rambus, Inc.," Aug 2, 2006. Available: "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-12-02. Retrieved 2008-11-04.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) Accessed 11/4/08; "Statement of the Federal Trade Commission In the Matter of Negotiated Data Solutions LLC," Jan 23, 2008. Available: Accessed 11/4/08.
  26. In re Valassis Communications, Inc. (FTC File No. 051 008)(Mar. 16, 2006). Available: Accessed 11/4/08.
  27. "Another Thumb on the Scales," Editorial, The New York Times, Nov. 1, 2008. Available: Accessed 11/4/08.
  28. "Davis Polk Welcomes Former FTC Chair Jon Leibowitz, "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-10-29. Retrieved 2014-10-29.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  29. "Telecom Firms Form Privacy coalition,"
  30. "Telecommunication Industry Lobbies To Relax Privacy Rules,"
  31. Ariel Edwards-Levy (April 5, 2017). "Even Trump Voters Hate This Bill He Just Signed". Huffington Post. Washington, DC. Retrieved April 5, 2017.
  32. Jackie Wattles (April 5, 2017). "Former FTC chief: Privacy fears are 'hyper-partisan hyperbole'". CNN. Retrieved April 5, 2017.
  33. Marcus, Ruth (December 5, 2011). "Gloria Cain, the human political prop". The Washington Post.
  35. "The Power Brokers," 2011, Bloomberg Businessweek, Available: "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-07-08. Retrieved 2011-03-03.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) Accessed: 3/3/11.
Political offices
Preceded by
William Kovacic
Chair of the Federal Trade Commission
Succeeded by
Edith Ramirez
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