September 19, 2008

Venable Adds FTC’s Former Northeast Regional Director Thomas Cohn To Advertising, Marketing and New Media practice in New York

5 min

Longtime FTC consumer protection attorney strengthens Venable's established marketing law practice; Cohn brings vast investigative/ enforcement track record from 17-year career at Commission.

NEW YORK (September 18, 2008) - Venable LLP has bolstered its nationally recognized advertising and marketing practice with the addition of longtime Federal Trade Commission enforcement and regulatory attorney Thomas A. Cohn, who has joined the firm's New York office as Of Counsel.

Mr. Cohn is a 17-year veteran of the FTC, where he served as the Commission's Director of the Northeast Region, the largest of the Commission's seven regional offices. In that post, he managed three dozen enforcement attorneys, investigators and support staff handling antitrust and consumer protection matters.

Throughout the course of Mr. Cohn's tenure at the FTC, he held numerous positions including senior attorney, assistant regional director, and legal advisor to head of the Bureau of Consumer Protection. Mr. Cohn actively participated in hundreds of cases across the full spectrum of the Commission's enforcement purview, from false advertising and privacy matters, including Do Not Call violations, to consumer credit and telemarketing fraud. He led multi-agency law enforcement efforts against unfair competition and deceptive trade practices. Mr. Cohn also directed numerous investigations and prosecutions of all manner of fraud, including bogus weight loss products and cancer cures, work at home dodges, debt negotiation schemes, and advance fee credit scams.

Among his more high-profile successes, Mr. Cohn was part of an undercover team that cracked massive price disclosure violations in the funeral home industry in the mid-1990s. The investigations and subsequent settlements led to a self-regulatory training and certification initiative that came to be known as the Funeral Rule Offenders' Program. In directing multiple judgments and settlements in anticompetitive and deceptive practices cases, Mr. Cohn regularly achieved consumer redress or disgorgement from companies violating FTC laws and regulations.

In recent years, Mr. Cohn often served as a public face for the FTC, regularly addressing consumer and business groups, as well as law enforcement and the press on fraud prevention and enforcement of the FTC's vast alphabet soup of consumer protection laws and credit statutes - everything from Gramm-Leach-Bliley (GLB), CAN-SPAM and Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), Truth in Lending Act (TILA), Credit Repair Organizations Act (CROA), and Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).

Mr. Cohn began his FTC career in 1991 as a staff attorney in the Division of Marketing Practices.

At Venable, Mr. Cohn joins one of the country's premier practices devoted to advertising and marketing law. The firm represents national trade organizations and associations with major marketing constituencies, including the Direct Marketing Association, as well as leading individual direct marketers and advertisers.

The Advertising/Marketing practice also includes several other former senior FTC staffers - Edward Glynn, who served as an assistant and associate director at the Commission, and Gary Hailey, who was counsel to then-Commissioner Mary Azcuenaga , and was a program advisor in the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection.

"Tom Cohn brings a spectacular track record in enforcement, investigation and regulatory oversight across so many areas of consumer protection and trade practice vital to our clients - we are extremely fortunate to have him join our group," noted Jeffrey Knowles, who chairs Venable's Advertising, Marketing and New Media Practice.

Mr. Knowles has his own prominent standing in the marketing industry, as co-founder and former chair and general counsel of the Electronic Retailing Association, the official membership organization for the direct response television and electronic retailing industries. ERA members include such prominent marketers as QVC, HSN, eBay, leading infomercial producer Guthy-Renker Corp., GE Consumer Finance and AEGON Direct Marketing Services.

"Tom's arrival is especially well-timed, given the heightened degree of public concern and regulatory scrutiny over all areas of consumer protection, including issues related to information security, consumer credit and financial services, where Tom has had so much experience," Mr. Knowles added. "His addition also marks an important expansion of our practice."

Commenting on his decision to leave the FTC, Mr. Cohn said, "After 17 years, I had worked from nearly every possible vantage point of enforcement and compliance, at the divisional, bureau, and regional levels. It was immensely rewarding to be at the forefront of so many areas of the FTC's core missions of consumer protection and fair trade oversight. However, I felt the time was right to apply my substantive enforcement and regulatory experience to private practice.

"Venable is an industry leader in matters that come before the FTC - with particular strengths in advertising and consumer law - that naturally drew me to the firm," Mr. Cohn continued. He cited several areas where he expects to be concentrating in the near term, in line with ongoing FTC oversight.

"First, it's certain that the Commission will continue to keep a close watch on advertising, marketing and promotional practices, which can touch virtually any industry but especially affect those businesses that market to consumers," he said.

"Secondly, privacy and information security will remain a major area of regulatory and enforcement interest - including business practices that have the potential to breach consumer privacy," he added. "And of course, the financial services sector will continue to be a hot spot given the current economy, not only consumer lenders but also companies and organizations specializing in debt collection and debt settlement, credit counseling and repair, and related services."

A few of the article and presentation topics Mr. Cohn has prepared in the last several years highlight his range of experience on consumer issues: "Green Lights & Red Flags: FTC Rules of the Road for Advertisers;" "The Risks of Non-Compliance: Current Trends in Privacy and Security Law Enforcement;" and "Online Behavioral Advertising."

Mr. Cohn earned his J.D. from the Boston University School of Law in 1985, and a B.A. in Political Science from Yale University in 1982.


One of the American Lawyer’s top 100 law firms, Venable LLP has attorneys practicing in all areas of corporate and business law, complex litigation, intellectual property and government affairs. Venable serves corporate, institutional, governmental, nonprofit and individual clients throughout the U.S. and around the world from its headquarters in Washington, D.C. and offices in California, Maryland, New York and Virginia.