Timothy Muris, the most aggressive Federal Trade Commission chairman on healthcare competition in the past decade, has resigned to return to teaching at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., the White House said. During Muris' tenure, the FTC brought 15 price-fixing complaints against physician groups, began a retrospective study of completed hospital mergers and challenged its first hospital merger in more than six years. In a written statement, Muris, 54, said serving as chairman had been "the greatest honor of my professional career." President Bush nominated former Justice Department official Deborah Majoras to complete Muris' seven-year term, which ends in September 2008. Majoras, 40, played a major role in the Justice Department's antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft Corp. while she was principal deputy assistant attorney general in the department's antitrust division. She now is in private practice at the Washington office of Jones Day. The Senate must confirm her nomination.
Michael Cowie, former assistant director of the FTC's Bureau of Competition, who left for private practice earlier this year, said Muris "changed the (FTC) by expanding the healthcare shop and expanding the merger shop, which is dedicated to merger activity in healthcare." While a successor may refocus the agency's priorities, "I think the institutional changes (Muris) made are likely to be long-lasting," Cowie said. -- by Mark Taylor