Credo Action

Tell President Obama: Break Wall Street's grip on the Federal Trade Commission

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Petition to President Obama:

"Your appointees to the Federal Trade Commission must be strong, independent voices with proven records who will protect consumer interests, defend our privacy, use antitrust laws to their fullest to get tough on too-big corporations, and demand tough penalties for companies that break the law."

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    Tell President Obama: Break Wall Street's grip on the Federal Trade Commission

    President Obama has a chance to dramatically reshape one of the most important government watchdogs, and help tilt the economic balance back in favor of everyday Americans.

    The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has authority over everything from consumer protection and privacy, to keeping companies from getting too big and crushing competition. For years, the FTC has been far too lenient, allowing massive mergers based on empty promises from the corporations involved.1 The revolving door between the FTC and giant corporate law firms has left us with an agency that increasingly works for Wall Street, not you and me.

    But now, President Obama can set a new direction for the FTC. Commissioner Julie Brill recently announced she was stepping down, leaving a second open seat on the five-member commission.2 It would be a huge missed opportunity to fill these positions with corporate attorneys or congressional staffers who support business as usual on Wall Street. We need to pressure President Obama to appoint outsiders who will use the FTC’s wide-ranging powers to get tough on Wall Street and protect regular Americans.

    Tell President Obama: We need FTC commissioners who represent Main Street, not Wall Street.

    President Obama has regularly appointed former corporate lawyers as regulators, who then fail to take on Wall Street – like the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Mary Jo White. It was only under recent pressure that he nominated a favorite of Sen. Elizabeth Warren to the SEC.

    We urgently need to mount the same pressure to remake the Federal Trade Commission. 2015 was a record year for mergers and acquisitions, and it’s no surprise. Not long ago, the U.S. government would aggressively break up big monopolies, preserving competition, lower prices, and better service. But today, the FTC rarely even blocks mergers. Instead, it prefers to use “consent agreements” where corporations make promises in exchange for approval – promises that are often broken. Or, it demands that a company spin off some portion of its operations in a token gesture to preserve competition – one that rarely works.3

    The sad truth is that the FTC has been hollowed out by the revolving door and decades of appointments of commissioners who aren’t serious about cracking down on Wall Street.

    The head of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition has hopped back and forth between government and representing clients before the FTC. One law firm alone has produced the general counsel of the FTC, the director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition, and a chair of the FTC.4 Even when staff recommends tough enforcement actions, as they did against Google in 2013, the commissioners have ignored those recommendations.5 And the FTC has been criticized for weak punishments in the cases when it does enforce the law.6

    President Obama must pick tough outsiders who will put Main Street before Wall Street and use all the power at their disposal to make the economy work for ordinary Americans.

    Tell President Obama: We need FTC commissioners who represent Main Street, not Wall Street.

    Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has shown what a bold consumer protection agency can do, recovering millions for Americans and cracking down on abuse. Tasked with monitoring deceptive advertising and abuses of privacy as well as protecting consumers and maintaining competition, the FTC has broad power.7 With new, tough leadership, the FTC could help fix an economy that has become rigged against working Americans.

    Too big to fail banks are getting bigger, technology companies are driving small competitors out of business, and massive conglomerates control our food, internet access, and even pharmaceutical drugs. It’s long past time for the Federal Trade Commission to stop protecting corporate interests, and stand up for all Americans.

    Tell President Obama: We need FTC commissioners who represent Main Street, not Wall Street.

    Thank you for speaking out.

    1. David Dayen, “Why Are Drug Monopolies Running Amok? Meet Deborah Feinstein,” The Intercept, December 16, 2015.
    2. David Dayen, “The Trump Network Was Scandalous. The Government’s Response May Have Been Worse,” The Fiscal Times, March 25, 2016.
    3. Dayen, “Why Are Drug Monopolies Running Amok? Meet Deborah Feinstein.”
    4. Ibid.
    5. Brody Mullins et. al., “Inside the U.S. Antitrust Probe of Google,” Wall Street Journal, March 19, 2015.
    6. Dayen, “Why Are Drug Monopolies Running Amok? Meet Deborah Feinstein.”
    7. Ibid.