This Jan. 28, 2015, file photo, shows the Federal Trade Commission building in Washington.
Photo: Alex Brandon (AP)

We’ve known for some time that Andrew Smith, who was hired to lead the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection earlier this year, had a significant number of corporate ties that called into question whether he was fit for the role. But those corporate links apparently run much, much deeper than initially thought.

Financial disclosure documents obtained by nonprofit consumer advocacy group Public Citizen reveal the list of companies from which Smith must recuse himself from involvement in investigation numbers 120—and the names are huge. The laundry list of corporate entities to which Smith is tied includes big banks and lenders as well as tech behemoths like Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, Uber, and dozens of others.

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This information again raises concerns about Smith’s corporate interests and whether he is able to perform the very function of his position with the FTC. Remington A. Gregg, counsel for civil justice and consumer rights at Public Citizen, said in a statement Thursday that he had “never seen a list of conflicts so vast across so many industries.”

“Andrew Smith is literally not able to do his job,” he added. “He has ties to a vast universe of financial predators that are likely to break the law — and he won’t be able to enforce the law against them. We need someone who can.”

That the FTC hired a corporate shill is on its own not new information, nor are his ties to many of the companies listed in the document—Facebook being one glaring example. Smith’s hire earlier this year was a point of contention among some of his fellow commissioners. Chief among these was Rohit Chopra, who questioned at the time whether Smith would “be unable to participate in some of the FTC’s high-profile and consequential matters of intense public interest.”

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Senator Elizabeth Warren was another staunch critic of Smith’s hire who in May said the agency’s decision was “outrageous” and added that the FTC “should pick someone with a track record of protecting consumers, not companies that cheat people.”

But the sheer number of corporate titans that Smith is unable to hold accountable seriously calls into question how, as Gregg noted, he’s able to do his job. Lisa Gilbert, vice president of legislative affairs with Public Citizen, echoed the sentiment.

“The Federal Trade Commission should be protecting consumers against predatory payday lenders and corporate bad actors rather than giving the corporate lawyer who has represented these companies a job,” Gilbert said in a statement. “This is one more example of the fox guarding the henhouse.”

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It’s great to know this is the kind of guy who’s expected to have our backs.

[The Hill]