Rodeos and consumer rights: Former FTC director brings consumer law expertise to Fort Worth-based firm

Betty Dillard

Growing up on a working ranch in Bonham, attorney Deanya Kueckelhan Cocanougher learned from her parents, Malda and the late Haynes Kueckelhan, to safeguard and foster both the Western lifestyle and consumers’ privacy rights. Her father founded the Kueckelhan Ranch Rodeo at the family ranch in 1955. The internationally award-winning rodeo – the longest-running privately owned rodeo in the world – consistently draws top-talent performers and riders. Less than a week after Kueckelhan’s death in July, the 58th Annual Kueckelhan Ranch Rodeo opened.

“At an early age, I gained a strong work ethic from my parents and from my ranch background. I know how to drive a tractor, pen cattle, paint fences, etc.,” Cocanougher said. “It seemed natural to move from honest ranch labor to fighting consumer fraud.” Cocanougher recently brought her diverse practice background and experience in consumer law and privacy and data security law to Cantey Hanger LLP’s Southlake office in its new practice area involving consumer law and privacy rights. Before joining Cantey Hanger, she spent nine years leading the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s five-state Southwest Region as regional director and led the Dallas Regional Office of the Consumer Protection Division, Texas Attorney General’s Office.

At Cantey Hanger, Cocanougher focuses on consumer law issues, including compliance with consumer privacy, mobile, financial, marketing and advertising consumer laws; and on defense of the FTC, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Texas AG consumer protection enforcement actions. “Established over 130 years ago, the Cantey Hanger firm has kept pace with changing business practices,” Cocanougher said. “Now, Cantey Hanger adds a consumer law practice that will include compliance and enforcement representation for the benefit of its existing and new clients. I am extremely pleased to be a part of that.” Cocanougher earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from East Texas State University. She graduated from Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law in 1989 and was admitted to the State Bar of Texas in 1990. She also is admitted to practice in the Northern, Eastern, Western and Southern Districts of Texas; the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and the United States Supreme Court. She is a member of the International Association of Privacy Professionals.

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Cocanougher and her husband, Robert Cocanougher, live in Southlake and are the parents of four children and grandparents of Parker. Cocanougher recently was elected to the board of directors of Act Beyond, formerly known as the Mission to Unreached Peoples, and also served on the inaugural board of the Fannin County Family Crisis Center. “I enjoy giving back to the community,” she said. “But the main reason I give is because I accepted the greatest gift from God and that free gift is his son. I can’t help but give back in his name.”

Tell me more about your father. My father was strongly committed to preserving and sharing Western values and the Western way of life. For 57 years, he enjoyed producing the Kueckelhan Ranch Rodeo showcasing such traditional contract acts as J.W. Stoker (stunt rider for Roy Rogers), cowgirl singer Trudy Fair, and trick riders like the Cowgirl Chicks. I enjoy riding and remain very sentimental about horses and rodeo. They remind me of my dad. My children competed when they were younger and still feel a deep connection to the Western way of life, as I do. What inspired you to become an attorney? I was drawn to the intellectual challenges that lawyers face daily to connect the pieces for the benefit of a client and for an outcome that is as positive as possible. Why were you attracted to consumer and privacy law? Consumer law is really the flip side of the business law coin. I like the fairness of consumer laws and how the free enterprise system works best when those laws are complied with. Privacy law, a subset of consumer and business law, is one of the most challenging, emerging areas of law, due to the unprecedented growth in volume and mobility of information. I want to help businesses safeguard information and comply with privacy laws. You twice had a solo practice but left for the Texas Attorney General’s Office each time. What lured you there? The AG’s office offered me an opportunity to make a larger, broader and more positive impact on society through our collective efforts. When you were with the FTC you prosecuted companies. Now you’re defending companies against the FTC. Is that switch difficult for you? Not really. Guiding businesses through compliance with consumer and privacy laws is a very important part of my current practice at Cantey Hanger. What’s one of your most interesting cases? Not my largest verdict, but perhaps the most meaningful was a Hood County case where I sued a fraudulent immigration services business on behalf of the Texas attorney general. Many victims appeared daily to watch the trial. When the trial ended, the victims expressed their appreciation stating that no one had ever stood up for them before. I will always remember their faces and treasure their words. Describe your leadership style. I enjoy leading by teaching and teaching by example. I enjoy seeing a lawyer grow in skill and wisdom. And I am always ready to roll up my sleeves and work alongside those that I am leading. It is important that those we are leading see that we have “skin in the game.” What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given? In the practice of law: preparation, preparation, preparation, and think outside the box. In life: To make it your ambition to live a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your hands. Thessalonians 4:11 What advice do you give young lawyers? Preparation. Preparation. Preparation. And, think outside the box. I understand you’re a huge Mavericks fan. How else do you unwind from the office? Yes, I really get into Mavs games, whether at AAC or at home. My high school had no football team. Rather, basketball was king and I played (that is, until girls basketball moved from half court to full court my senior year). I still like a good high school game. I also unwind by crawling on the floor with our 9-month-old grandson; hunting deer with my husband and son; cooking or shopping with our daughters and my mother; playing bridge (my husband is my partner); playing 42 with my father-in-law; traveling and spending time outdoors; needlepointing a Christmas stocking; and watching rodeo, tennis and theater.