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Freshfields snaps up former FTC commissioner to bolster US antitrust offering

In a boost to its Washington DC presence, Freshfields has hired former Federal Trade Commissioner, Christine Wilson, as a senior adviser in its antitrust practice.

The firm has made a concerted effort to build out its antitrust offering in both the US and Europe over the last year. In October 2023, it appointed former senior director of mergers at the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority, Colin Raftery, to the firm’s London office. While in June 2023, antitrust litigators Heather Lamberg and Justina Sessions joined the firm’s Washington DC and Silicon Valley antitrust practices. Antitrust and foreign investment practitioner Charlotte Colin-Dubuisson also joined the firm’s Paris office in January 2024.

Wilson resigned from the Federal Trade Commission in March 2023 following heated disagreements with her fellow commissioners. Announcing her resignation in the Wall Street Journal, Wilson said: ‘Much ink has been spilled about Lina Khan’s attempts to remake federal antitrust law as chairman of the Federal Trade Commission. Less has been said about her disregard for the rule of law and due process and the way senior FTC officials enable her. I have failed repeatedly to persuade Ms. Khan and her enablers to do the right thing, and I refuse to give their endeavor any further hint of legitimacy by remaining. Accordingly, I will soon resign as an FTC commissioner.’

Wilson was the only Republican commissioner on the Federal Trade Commission. The remaining commissioners, Lina Khan, Rebecca Slaughter, and Alvaro Bedoya are all Democrats.

Prior to the FTC, Wilson served as a senior vice president at Delta Airlines. She was previously a partner at both Kirkland & Ellis and O’Melveny & Myers.

Jamillia Ferris, Freshfields’ US head of antitrust, competition and trade said of Wilson’s appointment: ‘Christine is one of the most widely known and respected antitrust and regulatory lawyers in the United States. Her trifecta of experience as a private practitioner, senior government official, and in-house counsel bolsters our US regulatory and litigation practices. As antitrust plays an ever-expanding role around the world, her understanding of the intersection of competition and consumer protection law, policy and politics will enable her to impart mission-critical advice to our clients on some of the most complex and important issues facing these companies.’

Since leaving the FTC in March 2023, Wilson founded the EdenSpring Foundation, an organisation which provides human trafficking and sexual exploitation survivors with faith-based services, including safe housing, medical and legal services, counselling, education and job skills training.  Freshfields has worked with the organisation to provide pro bono services, including helping with its corporate formation.

Commenting on her move Wilson said: ‘Given my twin passions of practising antitrust law at the highest level and fighting the scourge of human trafficking, joining Freshfields made perfect sense.’

‘As a commissioner, my interactions with other regulators around the world underscored the fluidity of today’s antitrust landscape. The truly global nature of Freshfields’ antitrust practice enables the firm to provide the kind of nuanced yet seamless cross-border guidance that I, as a client, prized. And Freshfields has a strong commitment not just to providing pro bono services generally, but to halting human trafficking and seeking justice for trafficking survivors in particular,’ she added.