Andrew Smith is Trump's chief of the FTC Consumer Protection Bureau, in charge of investigating companies that abuse Americans — but he can't, because he has previously provided services for over 100 of America's largest companies, including Facebook, a whack of payday lenders, Amazon, American Airlines, Amex, BoA, Capital One, Citigroup, John Deere, Equifax, Expedia, Experian, Glaxosmithkline, Goldman Sachs, Jpmorgan, Linkedin, Microsoft, Paypal, Redbubble, Twitter, Sotheby's, Transunion, Uber, Verizon, Visa, Disney and Wells Fargo.
Smith is required to recuse himself from any proceeding involving these companies. Luckily, none of these companies are in any position to abuse or rip off Americans. Smith insists that there are many other companies he can go after, and he is thus in no way too compromised to have the job Donald Trump gave him.
"Andrew Smith is literally not able to do his job," Remington A. Gregg, counsel for civil justice and consumer rights at Public Citizen said. "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."
One of these high-profile cases could involve Facebook. At an oversight hearing in November before a Senate Commerce subcommittee, FTC Chairman Joseph Simons said that Facebook is currently under investigation by the agency, but would not provide details. The company entered into a consent decree with the agency in 2011, and is subject to a fine if it is proven to have deceived users as to how their data and privacy is handled on the platform. This decree could have been violated following the Cambridge Analytica scandal earlier this year or subsequent breaches, like the October incident in which hackers obtained access to over 50 million accounts.
Smith is also barred from any investigations into Equifax, which announced a data breach last year of the private information of over 143 million US consumers. Social Security numbers, birthdates, addresses, and some credit card numbers were stolen by hackers. Smith has also performed legal services for Amazon, PayPal, LinkedIn, Oculus VR, Riot Games, and Twitter.
The FTC's top consumer protection official can't go after Facebook — or 100 other companies [Makena Kelly/The Verge]
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