J. Thomas Rosch, Antitrust Switch-Hitter, Dies at 76

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J. Thomas Rosch

J. Thomas Rosch, a lawyer who spent years defending corporations from government antitrust actions before taking the other side as a member of the Federal Trade Commission, died on March 30 in Lake Forest, Ill. He was 76.

The cause was complications of Parkinson’s disease, his son, Thomas, said.

A Republican, Mr. Rosch was nevertheless a proponent of energetically applying antitrust laws as a member of the F.T.C.

In 2011, as the nation’s health care laws changed, encouraging greater collaboration between hospitals and doctors for cost savings, Mr. Rosch warned that without “vigorous antitrust enforcement,” the new alliances could reduce competition and increase costs to consumers.

Some of his former clients were not happy to see him on the opposing side. In 2009, Intel, where Mr. Rosch had been the chief antitrust defender for years, tried unsuccessfully to disqualify him from reviewing a case accusing the company of abusing its power over the microprocessor market.

The commissioners, including Mr. Rosch, voted to go ahead with the lawsuit. Intel later settled the case, agreeing to refrain from a host of business practices but without admitting that it had committed any anticompetitive acts.

John Thomas Rosch was born on Oct. 4, 1939, in Council Bluffs, Iowa. His father, Herman, was the manager of a paper company in Omaha; his mother, Phebe, was an English professor at the University of Omaha. After graduating from Harvard Law School in 1965, he began working as an associate at McCutchen, Doyle, Brown & Enersen in San Francisco.

Between 1973 and 1975, Mr. Rosch was director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, where he proposed tighter restrictions on nutritional claims in food advertising, went after five large New York department stores for bilking charge-account customers and challenged carmakers’ ads that made misleading claims about fuel economy.

He later became a partner at the law firm Latham & Watkins. He helped establish the firm’s global antitrust practice and oversaw a number of prominent cases, including the government’s attempt in 2004 to block Oracle’s $7.7 billion hostile acquisition of PeopleSoft. The argument was that combining the two companies would reduce competition in the market for software that large corporations use to manage their finances and employee records. A federal judge in San Francisco said Oracle could proceed with its hostile bid.

In 2006, President George W. Bush named Mr. Rosch one of the five commissioners at the F.T.C.

After retiring from the commission, Mr. Rosch rejoined Latham & Watkins in early 2013 in a counseling role. He continued to focus on competition and consumer protection issues there.

Mr. Rosch’s wife of more than 54 years, Carolyn, died in January. Besides his son, he is survived by a daughter, Laura Rosch Gillette; four grandchildren; and two sisters, Jane Jenkins and Ann Duffield.

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