FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Jeff Hauser, (202) 957-9719
On September 18, Judge Beth Labson Freeman of the Northern District of California granted the plaintiff’s motion for preliminary injunction in NetChoice, LLC v. Bonta, preventing California from enforcing the law (California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act, CAADCA) which regulates platforms that target content to children. Judge Freeman owns millions of dollars of stock in companies that lobbied against the bill before its passage, including Microsoft, Apple, Comcast, and Mastercard.
Microsoft spent over $500,000 on lobbying activities that included CAADCA during the 2021-2022 legislative session, while Apple spent $30,000 on similar activities, according to California state lobbying disclosures. The Chamber of Progress, a tech industry group of which Apple is a member, spent just over $10,000, and the trade association Technet, which counts Apple, Comcast, and MasterCard among its members, spent over $45,000.
According to a 2021 financial disclosure, Judge Freeman owns between $1 million and $5 million of Apple stock, between $1 million and $5 million of Microsoft stock, between $250,000 and $500,000 of Comcast stock, and between $100,000 and $250,000 of MasterCard stock.
Judge Freeman, through this case, is able to strike down a law opposed by companies she holds large and direct stakes in. Federal law requires any judge who “has a financial interest in the subject matter in controversy or in a party to the proceeding, or any other interest that could be substantially affected by the outcome of the proceeding” to disqualify themselves from the case. Judge Freeman’s financial interests clearly give rise to questions of a conflict of interest, questions which could have easily been avoided if she had simply invested in broadly-held funds.
The Revolving Door Project calls on Judge Freeman to vacate the preliminary injunction and recuse herself from the case, allowing a judge without direct ownership of Big Tech companies to oversee it.
Read our letter calling for recusal here.
Jeff Hauser, founder and Executive Director of the Revolving Door Project, released the following statement:
“It is ridiculous that judges continue to insist on holding specific stocks. It is incredibly easy to avoid conflicts of interest in cases like these — invest in broad-based funds. No judge — nor any government official, for that matter — should be voluntarily subjecting themselves to questions of conflicts of interest on such a regular basis.”