Nader Says FTC Remains Largely Moribund Sluggish Frightened Alleged Watchdog for the American Consumer

In 1969, the consumer advocate Ralph Nader released The Nader Report on the Federal Trade Commission. It led to some reforms.

Now, fifty years later, Nader is back at it.

In a letter to five FTC commissioners, Nader says the agency “remains a largely moribund, sluggish, frightened, alleged watchdog for the American consumer.”

“Institutionally, it has an anemic estimate of its own significance during this wave of corporate crime, fraud and abuse,” Nader wrote. “It raises few general alarms about grave harm to consumers and has dropped the ball, with its Justice Department counterpart, on antitrust enforcement, to an extreme degree.”

“The FTC has been intimidated by an industry-indentured Congress for many years. Note the ban, in the late seventies, on investigating the insurance industry,” Nader wrote. “Your budget is disgracefully small. You are operating with a little more than $300 million a year to oversee a mega-trillion dollar economy rife with the abuses which the FTC statutes were passed to confront. It is as if there were massive street crime waves in a major city with two dozen police to handle the chaos. To put your budget in perspective, it is less than one tenth of one percent of the estimated $350 billion in billing fraud this year just within the health care sector of our economy. That estimate comes from the work of the applied mathematician, Harvard professor Malcolm Sparrow, author of the seminal book License to Steal: How Fraud Bleeds America’s Health Care System.

“As the EPIC advocacy group has documented, the FTC’s consent decree with Facebook in 2011 has gone unenforced. How long will the public have to wait after the FTC’s hugely delayed 3 to 2 decision to impose a mere $5 billion fine on the company, without adding executive fines and some restructural reforms? The stock market and Facebook are laughing at you.”

Nader made a number of suggestions to the FTC Comissioners, including road trips. “You go on a road trip to get in touch with real people and absorb their grievances where they live, work and raise their families,” Nader wrote. “The FCC did this several years ago because it was overtaken so completely by its corporate patrons.”

Nader recommended “more workshops with intent to obtain media.”

“To most reporters, the FTC is a laugh when it is not a yawn,” Nader said.

“Drive yourselves to levels of higher visibility,” Nader wrote. “You’re supposed to be federal cops on the corporate crime and fraud beat. Act like enforcement officers. Regulation is just another word for law and order over crime in the suites.”

In response to the letter, FTC spokesman Peter Kaplan said “we don’t have any comment.”

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