On January 30, 2023, the Criminal Liaison Unit of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection (BCP CLU) issued its 2022 Criminal Liaison Unit Report, describing the history of the BCP CLU, its program operations, and major accomplishments over the past five years. In an effort to ensure criminal prosecution of appropriate consumer fraud cases, the BCP CLU refers cases to partner agencies with criminal jurisdiction, including U.S. Attorney’s Offices across the county, Divisions of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and others.
“For the worst individual and corporate wrongdoers, civil remedies may not be sufficient to protect the public from further harm,” said FTC lawyer Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Government works best when agencies work together toward a common goal, and we are proud that our partnership with criminal enforcers leads to justice for bad actors and a safer marketplace for us all.”
The FTC, which is not authorized to bring criminal law enforcement actions, established the BCP CLU in 2002 to bring the “worst of the worst” offenders to the attention of prosecutors. As it grew, the BCP CLU worked to establish relationships with prosecutors and educate them about the Commission’s consumer fraud and deception cases. Success in initial cases proved that criminal consumer protection cases were not only viable, but could result in substantial prison sentences.
Over the past five years, the report notes, BCP CLU referrals have led to criminal charges against 107 new defendants, 145 total convictions, and 181 defendants sentenced for consumer fraud. The total sentence time for all defendants was 746 years, with the average sentence being 51 months (approximately 4.3 years) of incarceration.
The BCP CLU Report: 2018-2022
As the BCP CLU has grown over the past 20 years, the program has worked to address prosecutors’ concerns by communicating regularly to understand their priorities and to strategically refer cases most likely to be attractive to them, according to the report. The result has been an established reputation for presenting prosecutors with solid cases that will make the most of their limited time.
The BCP CLU also has established annual awards, which recognize the FTC’s best partners for their criminal prosecution efforts on behalf of U.S. consumers. In 2021, because of the importance of this work as well as BCP CLU’s success to date, the Commission issued a Statement Regarding Criminal Referral and Partnership Process, where the agency recommitted itself to a robust program of criminal referrals across both its competition and consumer protection missions.
The 2022 BCP CLU Report includes information on:
- Significant early BCP CLU cases and their results;
- An overview of BCP CLU program operations;
- A description of BCP CLU cooperative efforts with other law enforcers;
- A list of BCP CLU Award recipients;
- A summary of BCP CLU accomplishments between 2018 and 2022; and
- A look forward to the future of the program, including current priorities.
More information about the BCP CLU can be found here on the FTC’s website.
Richard B. Newman is a digital advertising, internet law, and FTC defense attorney at Hinch Newman LLP.
Informational purposes only. Not legal advice. May be considered attorney advertising.