“Practices that three unelected bureaucrats find distasteful will be labeled with nefarious adjectives and summarily condemned, with little to no evidence of harm to competition. I fear the consequences for our economy, and for the FTC as an institution”
– FTC Commissioner Christine S. Wilson
The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) started 2023 with a bang. In addition to issuing a proposed Rule that would ban post-employment noncompetes nationwide, the FTC announced that it had settled two previously undisclosed enforcement actions and entered into proposed consent orders with three employers based on a novel legal theory. According to the Complaints filed in each action, the FTC contends that the defendant employers’ use of broad post-employment non-compete agreements constituted “unfair methods of competition” in violation of Section 5 of the FTC Act. Unfortunately, the timing of the announcement of these enforcement actions—one day before announcing the proposed rule—seems intended to discourage employers from challenging the FTC’s authority to issue rules banning, or otherwise regulating, noncompetes, and to intimidate the business community.