In 1982, I was the Commission’s lead attorney in FTC v. H.N. Singer, Inc., our seminal effort to use the federal courts to combat consumer fraud. Of course, Singer is best known as the original proclamation that the Commission had the authority to seek the full range of injunctive relief in federal court, but it was more than just a powerful legal precedent. Because it was the first litigation of its kind, we were testing investigative and procedural tools that have since become standard operating procedure for Commission attorneys and investigators. We engaged in aggressive discovery, fought off the defendants’ efforts to invoke the Fifth Amendment and were the first to file – and win – a motion for summary judgment. We fostered a cooperative relationship with a United States Attorney’s office that led to several defendants’ indictment and successful prosecution. And we did some fairly novel things in pursuit of enforcing our money judgment, including having one defendant deed a piece of real property to the Court and then acting as the Court’s agent to sell the property.
The goal, of course, was two-fold: to put a stop to the defendants’ criminally fraudulent behavior and to provide as much redress to consumers as possible. We were successful on both counts. I remember the gratitude of several of the victims when they received some of their money back, partly for the money itself, but mostly for the knowledge that the FTC really was looking out for them and the public interest.