Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Update on FTC Noncompete Ban: The Court Challenges Begin

 James R. Erwin

On April 23rd the Federal Trade Commission voted to ban almost all non-competition agreements in the United States. Within hours of that vote, Ryan

LLC, a global tax consulting firm headquartered in Dallas, filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas challenging the FTC’s authority to issue such a rule.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been allowed to intervene in that case and will join in the challenge to the FTC ban.

Ryan’s claims are that:

·       The FTC lacks the legal authority to promulgate such a rule.

·       Even if Congress had granted that authority by statute, such a grant would be an unconstitutional delegation of legislative authority to the executive branch, in violation of Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution.

·       The FTC Act is unconstitutional because it limits the president’s authority to remove subordinates (in this case, FTC Commissioners).

·       The FTC promulgated the rule in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act because it failed to establish a factual basis for the rule.

·       The rule is retroactive in purporting to invalidate all existing non-competition agreements, but the FTC has no authority to issue retroactive rules.

Based on our review of the pleadings filed thus far in the case, we think that the U.S. Chamber and its allies agree that these are the correct arguments and that they will file a brief supporting them.

Ryan is asking the court for two things: a stay of the effective date of the rule, and preliminary and permanent injunctions barring the FTC from enforcing it. The case is on an expedited schedule, with briefing to be completed by June 12 and a ruling expected on the pending motion by July 3rd.

Given that the rule’s effective date is September 4, if the court can meet that schedule, employers should have sufficient time to take the necessary steps to comply, if the court allows the rule to go into effect.

However, we would advise employers to start identifying all employees who are subject to an existing non-competition agreement, so they can move quickly to meet the notice requirements over the summer, should that become necessary.

Of counsel at the regional law firm of Pierce Atwood LLP, Jim Erwin has extensive state and federal litigation experience in a wide range of substantive areas at the trial, appellate, administrative and arbitration levels.  Jim can be contacted by email at