Federal Regulators Of Big Businesses Also Invest In Those Same Businesses

According to a Wall Street Journal report, senior officials at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) traded stock in the same companies they were charged with overseeing.

A review of 50 federal agencies from 2016 to 2021 showed that FTC officials engaged in more trades than other agency officials, including investments in companies that were under investigation by the agency at the time.

FTC officials invested in over a third of the 60 companies they were reviewing from 2016 to 2021, according to the report.

The FTC claimed to have “robust ethic programs,” under which officials are required to file disclosures listing all conflicts of interest.

“Ultimately, it is the filer’s obligation to comply with the rules,” said a spokesman for the FTC.

Kent Cooper, a former government official and ethics expert, questioned the appropriateness of allowing FTC officials to invest in the same companies they regulate.

“[It] hurts the reputation of the agency and the government in general,” said Cooper. “Are these decisions being made for the benefit of the public or the officials who have a personal benefit in the outcome?”

During the review period, Randolph Tritell, the former head of the FTC’s Office of International Affairs, issued more stock trades than any other FTC official. Records show that Tritell had large holdings in Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft.

Tritell’s trades include an 80% gain on an Amazon investment that occurred while the European Union investigated the company for antitrust law violations.

In 2019, Tritell sold large portions of his Facebook stock just before the FTC announced a $5 billion penalty on the company for misuse of user data.

Tritell claimed not to know much about the Facebook case.

“I was less briefed in detail because I knew they were doing a great job,” he said. “I wasn’t personally and substantially involved, so there’s no issue.”

Tritell also said that he rarely engaged in the stock market on a personal level, leaving most of the work up to financial advisory.

“[It’s] the last thing I want to spend my time on,” he said.