Smith will have to recuse himself from numerous ongoing investigations that his office would normally lead, including the commission’s high-profile scrapes of data breaches at Equifax and Facebook, because of his past work on behalf of the firms.
But the full list of his conflicts of interest is likely much, much longer. Smith has built his career on representing large firms and industries who hoped to soften regulations that he will now be charged with enforcing. FTC officials did not respond to a request for copies of Smith’s ethics paperwork that might reveal the whole picture.
Why would they.
And in 2012, Mr. Smith was also part of the legal team that defended AMG Services, the payday lender founded by the convicted racketeer Scott Tucker, whose predatory practices against impoverished borrowers eventually led to a $1.3 billion court-ordered settlement, the biggest in the commission’s history.
“It’s outrageous the F.T.C. would pick the lawyer for a criminally convicted racketeer’s payday loan company as consumer protection chief,” said Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, who opposed Mr. Smith’s selection. “The agency should pick someone with a track record of protecting consumers, not companies that cheat people.”