I started my career with the FTC during the halcyon days before Section 13(b) allowed us to sit at the grown-ups’ table where litigation is conducted in the stately chambers of federal district courts. At that time, all litigation was handled in the administrative forum.
Two years after I started my dream job, my boss assigned me to review an allegation of illegal tying by Levi Strauss & Co., at that time the largest manufacturer of jeans in the world. What became apparent as I interviewed retailers was far more pernicious. Retailers were complaining about a practice called Resale Price Maintenance, which at that time had been repeatedly condemned by the Supreme Court as per se illegal. Eventually, the Levi Strauss investigation matriculated to litigation.
Representing the public were… drum roll… two (2) attorneys: myself (2 years out of law school), and my esteemed colleague David Newman (also a tyro at this game). Arrayed against us was the firepower from two major law firms, as well as Levi Strauss’s in-house legal team. We ultimately won a stellar victory for the American public.
When I think about this experience, I marvel at how imprudent the agency might have been in allowing David and me to litigate a case which, at that time, qualified as one of the FTC’s largest antitrust matters. On the other hand, this type of opportunity was one of the reasons that attorneys hungered to work at the FTC. It still is the best place to start and finish a career, and sometimes the FTC lets you write history with lightning.