In Amg Capital Mgmt. v. FTC, No. 19-508, 2021 U.S. LEXIS 2108, at *1-4 (Apr. 22, 2021), the Supreme Court held that the FTC Act does not authorize the FTC to seek monetary restitution in a suit that the FTC brings in the first instance (i.e., without a prior administrative proceeding) in federal court under section 13(b) of the FTC Act. (15 USC 53(b).) That section expressly permits only injunctive relief in such an action. Furthermore, allowing restitution under section 13(b) would conflict with other parts of the FTC Act that permit monetary recovery after FTC administrative proceedings in limited circumstances, opening a broad way around those limitations if the FTC sues in court first. The Supreme Court’s syllabus summarized the Court’s decision:
The Federal Trade Commission filed a complaint against Scott Tucker and his companies alleging deceptive payday lending practices in violation of §5(a) of the Federal Trade Commission Act. The District Court granted the Commission’s request pursuant to §13(b) of the Act for a permanent injunction to prevent Tucker from committing future violations of the Act, and relied on the same authority to direct Tucker to pay $1.27 billion in restitution and disgorgement. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit rejected Tucker’s argument that §13(b) does not authorize the award of equitable monetary relief. Held: Section 13(b) does not authorize the Commission to seek, or a court to award, equitable monetary relief such as restitution or disgorgement. Pp. 3-15. (a) Congress granted the Commission authority to enforce the Act’s prohibitions on “unfair or deceptive acts or practices,” 15 U. S. C. §§45(a)(1)-(2), by commencing administrative proceedings pursuant to §5 of the Act. Section 5(l) of the Act authorizes the Commission, following completion of the administrative process and the issuance of a final cease and desist order, to seek civil penalties, and permits district courts to “grant mandatory injunctions and such other and further equitable relief as they deem appropriate in the enforcement of such final orders of the Commission.” §45(l). Section 19 of the Act further authorizes district courts (subject to various conditions and limitations) to grant “such relief as the court finds necessary to redress injury to consumers,” §57b(b), in cases where someone has engaged in unfair or deceptive conduct with respect to which the Commission has issued a final cease and desist order applicable to that person, see §57b(a)(2). Here, the Commission responded to Tucker’s payday lending practices by seeking equitable monetary relief directly in district court under §13(b)’s authorization to seek a “permanent injunction.” In doing so, the Commission acted in accordance with its increasing tendency to use §13(b) to seek monetary awards without prior use of the Commission’s traditional administrative proceedings. The desirability of the Commission’s practice aside, the question is whether Congress, by enacting §13(b) and using the words “permanent injunction,” granted the Commission authority to obtain monetary relief directly from courts and effectively bypass the requirements of the administrative process. [*3] Pp. 3-6. (b) Section 13(b) does not explicitly authorize the Commission to obtain court-ordered monetary relief, and such relief is foreclosed by the structure and history of the Act. Section 13(b) provides that the “Commission may seek . . . a permanent injunction.” §53(b). By its terms, this provision concerns prospective injunctive relief, not retrospective monetary relief. Section 13(b) allows the Commission to go directly to district court when the Commission seeks injunctive relief pending administrative proceedings or when it seeks only a permanent injunction. Other statutory provisions, in particular the conditioned and limited monetary relief authorized in §19, confirm this conclusion. It is highly unlikely that Congress, without mentioning the matter, would grant the Commission authority to circumvent its traditional §5 administrative proceedings. Pp. 6-10. (c) The Commission’s contrary arguments are unavailing. First, Porter v. Warner Holding Co., 328 U. S. 395, and Mitchell v. Robert DeMario Jewelry, Inc., 361 U. S. 288, did not adopt a universal rule that statutory authority to grant an injunction automatically encompasses the power to grant equitable monetary remedies. Instead, the text and structure of the particular statutory scheme at issue can limit a court’s jurisdiction in equity. Second, in enacting §19 two years after §13(b), Congress did not simply create an alternative enforcement path with similar remedies. The Court does not believe Congress would have enacted §19’s provisions expressly authorizing monetary relief if §13(b) already implicitly allowed the Commission to obtain that same monetary relief without satisfying §19’s conditions and limitations. Third, §19’s saving clauses—preserving “any authority of the Commission under any other provision of law” and “any other remedy or right of action provided by State or Federal law,” §57b(e)—do not help answer whether §13(b) gave the Commission the authority to obtain equitable monetary relief directly in court in the first place. Fourth, the Act’s 1994 and 2006 amendments, which did not modify the specific language at issue here, do not demonstrate congressional acquiescence to lower court rulings that favor the Commission’s interpretation of §13(b). Fifth, policy arguments that §5 and §19 are inadequate to provide redress to consumers should be addressed to Congress. Pp. 10-14.