President Trump Picks Republican Commissioner Ajit Pai to Serve as Chairman of the FCC


1/23/2017 2:00:00 PM

The FCC Commissioner strongly opposed former Chairman Tom Wheeler’s approach to the TCPA, issuing a scathing dissent in the 2015 TCPA Declaratory Ruling and Order.

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President Donald Trump has selected Ajit Pai to serve as the next chairman of the Federal Communications Commission following Tom Wheeler’s resignation, effective immediately. Pai, 44, has served as a top Republican commissioner on the FCC for more than three years.

Pai confirmed his appointment as chairman in a statement posted on the FCC’s website Monday afternoon.

“I am deeply grateful to the President of the United States for designating me the 34th Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.  I look forward to working with the new administration, my colleagues at the Commission, members of Congress and the American public to bring the benefits of the digital age to all Americans,” Pai said.

Although it was expected that Pai would serve as acting chairman of the FCC while waiting for Trump to make a decision on the chairmanship, Pai’s elevation has come early on, cementing his ability to shape the Commission in a way he was unable to do under Wheeler.

Pai, who was confirmed for his first term on the FCC in May 2012, has been a vocal critic of not only many of the substantive decisions made by the FCC’s Democrat majority while under the helm of Wheeler, but also of the FCC’s process which he publicly lamented as increasingly partisan.  

Of particular importance to the credit and collection industry, Pai has fiercely objected to the FCC’s more recent interpretations of the TCPA spearheaded by Wheeler.  Authoring a hard-hitting dissent of the July 2015 TCPA Declaratory Ruling and Order, Pai highlighted the rampant litigation abuse spawned by the TCPA and laid out in detail the legal failings of the majority’s ruling.  In fact, during the oral argument for ACA’s consolidated appeal of the 2015 TCPA Ruling, Pai’s dissent was repeatedly referenced.

Stating that the FCC’s position on the definition of an automated telephone dialing system is “flatly inconsistent with the TCPA” and that the Order’s “reading is sure to spark endless litigation, to the detriment of consumers and the legitimate businesses that want to communicate with them,” Pai’s approach to the TCPA has been to stay true to the text of the statute and Congress’s intent.

Also, of interest, two days before the FCC’s vote on the 2015 Order, Pai wrote an op-ed entitled, “The FCC Shouldn’t Enable More TCPA Lawsuits,” which called for the FCC to make specific clarifications related to the TCPA, as ACA International previously reported.

Specifically, Commissioner Pai wrote the government should not make it easier for trial attorneys to manipulate the TCPA in order to file frivolous class-action lawsuits against businesses trying to communicate with consumers.

As for the rest of the Commissioners, Commissioners Michael O’Rielly and Mignon Clyburn will continue to serve out their respective terms, leaving the FCC with a 2-1 Republican majority.  In early January, former President Obama renominated Jessica Rosenworcel, who left the FCC this year after the Senate failed to reconfirm her, to fill an open Democrat slot but so far the Senate has not yet moved forward on her renomination.

ACA International will continue to follow developments with this story and the FCC’s leadership in 2017.

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