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Lawbreaking Corporations in U.S. Chamber’s Ranks Explain Its War Against Tougher FTC Enforcement

Corporate Wrongdoers in U.S. Chamber Violated Laws Nearly 16,000 Times, Faced $154 Billion in Penalties

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is lobbying to oppose tougher enforcement at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) because its ranks are filled with corporate wrongdoers, according to a new Public Citizen report released today.

The 111 known Chamber member corporations have violated state and federal laws a staggering 15,896 times and racked up penalties totaling more than $154 billion since 2000, Public Citizen’s analysis of corporate disclosures and penalty records found. Additionally, 19 Chamber members have pleaded guilty to crimes at the parent or subsidiary level, while another four are currently under criminal investigation.

The report provides important context for the Chamber’s recent efforts to undermine the FTC. After FTC Chair Lina Khan announced an initiative to combat corporate crime, the Chamber accused the agency of “going rogue” and vowed to respond with every tool it has. Now the business lobby is reportedly launching a six-figure ad campaign attacking the agency.

“In fact, it is the Chamber’s ranks that are packed with rogues,” said Rick Claypool, a Public Citizen research director and author of the report. “The time is long overdue for big corporations that engage in abusive, monopolistic, and predatory behaviors to face serious consequences. Corporate crime shouldn’t pay, and honest businesses should welcome the FTC’s recent pledge to crack down on corporate crime.”

The Chamber’s list of corporate lawbreakers includes:

  • Big Banks: Three multinational megabanks account for more than half of the total amount paid in penalties by known Chamber members: JPMorgan Chase ($35 billion), Citigroup ($25 billion), and Wells Fargo ($21 billion);
  • Tech Giants: Amazon, Facebook, and Google parent company Alphabet are all under investigation by federal and state authorities for antitrust violations. So far, they have been penalized for misdeeds 131 times and paid nearly $6 billion in penalties;
  • Big Polluters: Known Chamber members have paid more than $20 billion in penalties for more than 2,600 environmental misdeeds. Oil and gas corporations like Chevron, Occidental Petroleum, and Marathon Petroleum have recorded more than 1,600 violations totaling $8.9 billion in penalties; and
  • Wage Thieves: More than half of the known Chamber members have records of wage and hour violations – 284 violations in total with $119 million in penalties.

The annual cost of corporate and white-collar crime to Americans is estimated at between $300 billion and $800 billion a year, while street crime costs about $16 billion. But under the Trump administration, corporate prosecutions plunged to a quarter-century low.

A November poll from Data for Progress found that 70% of Republicans, Independents, and Democrats want the Biden administration to do more to fight corporate crime. Renewing enforcement would ensure that dishonest, deceptive, and destructive business practices offer corporate monopolists, predators, scammers, and wrongdoers no advantage over honest, transparent, and innovative business practices.