Aug. 24, 2018
Government Hides Corporate-Backed FTC Leader’s Public Records, Suggests Existence of Ethics Conflicts
Statement of Remington A. Gregg, Counsel for Civil Justice and Consumer Rights, Public Citizen’s Congress Watch Division
Note: In May, Public Citizen requested documents related to the Federal Trade Commission’s new head of the Bureau of Consumer Protection, Andrew Smith. The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request asked for information related to Smith’s public financial disclosure form, including all relevant documents pertaining to Smith’s ethical conflicts. Public Citizen also requested documentation detailing what steps the agency would take to prevent Smith from participating in matters where one of the parties is a former Smith client.
Today, the FTC released 479 pages of documents to Public Citizen, almost all of them wholly or partially redacted. The documents reveal nothing about how Smith or the agency plans to address conflicts of interest and wall him off from investigations and conflicts of interest into companies that he previously represented.
As a corporate lawyer, Andrew Smith has represented Equifax, Wells Fargo, PayPal, Uber and payday lenders, among others. Rather than release the documents that would show just how he will remove himself from real or perceived conflicts of interests when these companies are investigated by the agency, the FTC has chosen instead to send a mix of documents that quite literally say nothing.
Almost 500 pages of documents have been redacted. This raises additional questions about whether Smith is truly working to protect consumers or simply carrying water for his corporate friends. The public deserves more than hollow promises of transparency.