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Root, root, root for the regions

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This year eight major league baseball teams are celebrating milestone anniversaries – and so are the FTC’s regional offices. In 1918, the Commission opened the first three of its regional offices. Today, eight regional offices continue to knock it out the park on behalf of America’s consumers. So it’s only fitting that on this momentous day we acknowledge the regional offices’ century of pennant-winning performances.

According to the Commission’s 1918 Annual Report, “In order to expedite the greatly increased work of the Commission . . . small branch offices were established in New York, Chicago, and San Francisco.” Over time, the FTC has added other locations for a current total of eight offices in seven regions. Regional staff work with the Bureau of Consumer Protection and the Bureau of Competition on investigations and litigation. But they are in a unique position to host roundtables and workshops in their communities; to coordinate with local, state, and cross-border law enforcers; and to build partnerships with consumer groups and small business organizations within their region. According to the scouting report, there isn’t a pitch they can’t hit.

Here’s a brief look at each region’s box score with a focus on just a few of their many MVP contributions to the FTC’s consumer protection mission.

East Central Region. In 1918, the Cleveland Indians finished just out of pennant contention, but the FTC’s Cleveland-based office works hard to bring home the W for consumers and small businesses. For example, ECR has brought a number of cases over the past two decades to protect small businesses in their area and around the country, including cramming, business directory, and unordered merchandise scams. Recently, ECR played a central role in Operation Main Street, the FTC’s recent initiative against scammers targeting small businesses.

Midwest Region. Chicago fans may be divided in their loyalty to the Cubs and the White Sox, but consumers who lost money to scammers who used the services of a major money transfer company are united in their appreciation for the FTC-DOJ settlement that returned $586 million back to them. And just recently, MWR hosted the Commission’s workshop on cryptocurrency scams and took a lead role in Operation Tech Trap, a coordinated state, federal, and international effort to shut down tech support fraudsters.

Northeast Region. Given New York’s connection to names like Huggins, Houk, Stengel, Berra, and Torre, it’s no wonder the FTC’s Northeast Region has particular expertise in coaching. But in NER’s case, it’s about companies that make deceptive “coaching” and money-making representations. The New York-based office also has been one of the FTC’s power hitters in addressing misleading practices in the affiliate marketing industry. And from their Big Apple location, NER has been a leader in educating consumers, particularly older Americans and small businesses.

Northwest Region. Like their hometown Seattle Mariners, the FTC’s Northwest Region has a proven record of navigating the complexities on the field of play. NWR coordinated Operation Donate with Honor, a nationwide crackdown on fraudulent charities alleged to have conned consumers by falsely promising their contributions will help veterans and servicemembers. In addition, our team in Seattle regularly coordinates with Canadian counterparts to combat cross-border fraud. And they’ve been ahead of the curve on tech issues, bringing one of the FTC’s first internet cases in the 90s and more recently, an early online influencer action.

Southeast Region. The Atlanta Braves boast a national fan base – and due to their expertise in fighting fraud, the FTC’s Southeast Region can be proud of its coast-to-coast impact, too. For example, SER has been at the forefront in stopping fraudulent practices in the travel industry. Operation Trip Trap and the Last Resort timeshare sweep are just two examples. SER staff is also a leader in the community, hosting Scam Jam events with the BBB and reaching out to consumer groups and small business organizations in their region.

Southwest Region. Texas can be proud of the 2017 World Champion Astros just as we’re proud of the accomplishments of the FTC’s Dallas-based Southwest Region. One recent example: the staff’s expertise in handling pyramid and chain referral cases, including a recent settlement with a company that targeted college students and other young people with practices the FTC says created a pyramid scheme. Like another famous Texan, SWR staff is regularly “on the road again,” speaking with consumer and business groups throughout their region at libraries, town halls, fairs, and conferences.

Western Region (Los Angeles). It’s only fitting that the Los Angeles office of the FTC’s Western Region has a lot of experience with “dodgers” – companies charged with making dodgy claims. For example, WR-LA staff brought the FTC’s first Do Not Call case. WR-LA’s locale has given the staff particular experience in coordinating consumer education events at local military installations, including a Military Common Ground conference. In addition, WR-LA won $100 million in loan forgiveness and refunds back for students in an action challenging deceptive claims by a post-secondary school.

Western Region (San Francisco). The FTC’s San Francisco office of the Western Region lives up to the name “Giants.” In the 80s, they brought one of the first Section 13(b) actions establishing the Commission’s ability to get injunctive and monetary relief in federal district court. More recently, they spearheaded a precedent-setting case addressing the scope of the FTC Act’s common carrier exemption. Given their Silicon Valley-centric location, WR-SF has played a key role in business outreach and education for the tech community.

Box scores in 1918 included names like Babe Ruth, Walter Johnson, and Ty Cobb. On the occasion of their 100th anniversary, we’re just as proud of the accomplishments of the All Stars in the FTC’s regions.

 

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