Seems that the conflicts of interest that FTC chair Deborah Platt Majoras carries about in her briefcase go deeper than I realized. You may recall that two privacy groups called for her recusal from considering the Google-DoubleClick merger based on the fact that her husband is a partner at the law firm of Jones Day, which is representing DoubleClick, although, it turns out, not before the FTC but rather before the European Commission.
In her recusal refusal, Majoras made much of the fact that her husband is a non-equity partner these days, meaning that he gets paid the same regardless of the firm's bottom line.
But as Byron Acohido and Jon Swartz reveal in USA Today Majoras herself was a partner in Jones Day before joining the FTC and the credit agency Equifax was one of JD's biggest partners. So when it comes to the FTC clamping down on credit bureaus' selling of consumer data, does it come as a surprise that the FTC has tred lightly?
Privacy advocates also remain concerned that Platt Majoras has done little to stem the credit bureaus' escalating sales of trigger lists. "The FTC has become the lapdog for the data industry, instead of being the public's watchdog," says Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, which last month asked the FTC to investigate companies that buy trigger lists and sell them to subprime lenders.
Introduced by Experian in 2005, a basic trigger list includes the names and contact information of people who've recently applied for a mortgage. Deluxe lists also supply credit scores, credit card debt summaries and estimates of the equity in real estate owned by prospective borrowers. By late 2006, consumers were complaining to the FTC about phone calls from subprime lenders; some filed lawsuits accusing lenders of using trigger lists, coupled with bait-and-switch tactics, to lure them into onerous loans.