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FOIA RequestPress Release | September 22, 2022

FOIA Request: Is Big Tech’s Favorite FTC Commissioner Going To Lobby For Amazon?

Ethics in GovernmentFTCTech
FOIA Request: Is Big Tech’s Favorite FTC Commissioner Going To Lobby For Amazon?

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Andrea Beaty, beaty@therevolvingdoorproject.org

FOIA Request: Is Big Tech’s Favorite FTC Commissioner Going To Lobby For Amazon?

The Wall Street Journal reported last night that Republican Federal Trade Commissioner Noah Phillips recused himself from an agency order regarding the FTC’s investigation into e-commerce monopolist Amazon. Sudden recusals of this type may mean that Phillips is currently considering employment at Amazon, or its law firm Covington & Burling LLC, which is also implicated in the order. 

To determine whether Phillips is seeking or pending employment at Amazon, Covington, or any other firms implicated in the FTC’s current investigations, the Revolving Door Project has filed a Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) request for Phillips’ “Signed Notification Statement, including but not limited to, a Notification of Post-Employment Negotiation or Agreement And Recusal Statement.”

Revolving Door Project Senior Researcher Andrea Beaty said: “This would constitute a flagrant violation of basic ethical practice, and would sadly continue past trends at the FTC, where an overwhelming number of leaders have revolved out to work for the Big Tech firms the agency is meant to investigate. Phillips’ possible side-switching would undermine the mission of the FTC, which is responsible for bringing anticompetitive corporations to account.”

In June, Beaty released an extensive research paper into the revolving door between federal antitrust enforcers and the corporate interests they are supposed to investigate.

Phillips announced his planned departure from the FTC in August. In December 2020, Phillips was the only FTC Commissioner to vote against even opening a study into the privacy policies of major internet platforms. In July 2021, Phillips said that the Biden administration’s executive order urging the FTC to investigate Big Tech “contemplates a really broad regulatory imposition by the agency” — even though regulating major market actors is the entire purpose of the FTC. 

He has dissented from the FTC’s lawsuit against Intuit, the parent company of Turbotax, for deceptive advertising about their allegedly free filing tool; an FTC statement on health apps’ requirements to inform users about data breaches; and an FTC probe into the drug pricing practices of pharmacy benefit managers.

He has rejected the term “surveillance advertising,” and expressed skepticism about privacy protections because “there is a lot of commerce to be made from utilizing information about people. Literally trillions of dollars.” Meanwhile, his possible prospective employer Amazon has created a TV show based on its invasive network of Ring cameras and uses surveillance to force workers into keeping up with breakneck production quotas.

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Ethics in GovernmentFTCTech

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