WASHINGTON, Oct 19 (Reuters) - The White House formally announced on Thursday the president will nominate Washington antitrust lawyer Joseph Simons to the Federal Trade Commission, along with Rohit Chopra, a former official at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Once the two are confirmed by the Senate, Simons will be named to chair the agency, which works with the Justice Department to enforce antitrust law and investigates allegations of deceptive behavior by companies. The FTC has five seats, and no more than three can be from one party.
The president is also expected to nominate Noah Phillips, chief counsel for U.S. Senator John Cornyn, to fill an empty Republican seat, although that was not announced on Thursday.
The agency is currently reviewing a number of big mergers in industries where there are already few players.
One is a deal to merge industrial gases companies Praxair Inc and Linde AG, and another is fertilizer maker Potash Corp's deal for Agrium Inc. It will also decide if lens maker Essilor International SA will be allowed to merge with dominant frame-maker Luxottica Group SpA.
The agency has been operating with just Acting Chairman Maureen Ohlhausen, a Republican, and Democrat Terrell McSweeny, the only other commissioner. The president has long been expected to name a Republican as the permanent chair and fill the empty commission seats.
Simons, a partner at the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, was a director of the FTC's Bureau of Competition from 2001 to 2003.
To fill an empty Democratic seat on the commission, the president tapped Chopra, a financial services expert who is a veteran of the CFPB and is currently at the advocacy group Consumer Federation of America.
Noah Phillips graduated from Stanford Law School in 2005. He is also a veteran of the law firms Steptoe & Johnson LLP and Cravath, Swaine & Moore. (Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Dan Grebler)