Corporate Responsibility

Holding Corporate America Accountable.

As we learned from the 2008 financial crisis, decisions made in company boardrooms can upend the lives of millions of Americans.

Campaign for Accountability (CfA) exposes some of the worst corporate offenders, including large technology companies and finance firms that attempt to influence Washington for financial gain, rooftop solar companies that harm consumers, and predatory lenders who work to undermine the regulatory efforts of government agencies.

Highlights

CfA has worked to hold corporate interests accountable.

Google Transparency Project

In April 2016, CfA launched the Google Transparency Project (GTP), a comprehensive research initiative to track the company’s influence on our government, public policies, and everyday lives. The GTP assembles materials cataloging Google’s influence in a single place and makes it searchable by any user. Notably, the GTP website was an Interactive Media Awards Winner in 2016, winning the Best in Class Award in the Association Category.

Highlights from the GTP include CfA’s report detailing How Google Makes Millions Off of Fake News, CfA’s analysis of Google’s Support for Hillary Clinton, CfA’s interactive feature exploring Google’s White House Meetings during the Obama Administration, and CfA’s report Google’s Silicon Tower, which detailed the influence of Google-funded academics and experts at academic and government conferences. In July 2017, CfA further explored the relationship between Google and academia in Google Academics, Inc. CfA identified 329 research papers published between 2005 and 2017 on public policy matters of interest to Google that were in some way funded by the company. Similarly, in March 2018, CfA explored Google’s Academic Influence in Europe.

In September 2018, CfA successfully posed as a Russian troll farm and ran politically divisive ads on Google’s platforms, targeting U.S. audiences. U.S. Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) subsequently cited CfA’s research on Capitol Hill. In December 2018, CfA published “Quitting Google,” showing just how hard it is to “quit” using Google’s products, despite the company’s reassurances that “competition is just a click away.” CfA also built a simple browser extension that warns you anytime you visit a site with Google tracking code running in the background.

In 2019, the GTP explored, among other topics, Google’s influence in America’s classrooms, Google’s efforts to involve itself in key U.S. foreign policy issues, Google’s financial support of news organizations around the world, and Google’s ties to the Koch Network.

 

Rooftop Solar Industry

In the fall of 2016, CfA launched an investigation into solar companies that exploit vulnerable consumers. Previously, in August 2016, two consumer watchdogs had warned government regulators about the exploitative contracts used by solar companies. Following these warnings, CfA asked state Attorneys General for copies of consumer complaints about solar panels.  A review of the complaints revealed a widespread pattern of apparent fraud and abuse by solar companies. CfA called on several states to open investigations into solar companies and protect consumers from these deceptive tactics.

In December 2017, CfA released a report highlighting the findings of its year-long investigation into the unscrupulous sales practices of the rooftop solar industry. CfA’s investigation found consumers filed more complaints against SolarCity and Vivint Solar than any other company.

State officials are now starting to take action. In March 2018, New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas filed a lawsuit against Vivint Solar for allegedly engaging in “unfair and unconscionable business” practices. In October 2019, the New Jersey Attorney General reached a settlement with Vivint concerning allegations the company had deceived customers. Vivint agreed to alter its business practices and uninstall and remove solar panels from the homes of dissatisfied customers. Additionally, officials in New York and Hawaii have subpoenaed Vivint for records.

Continue reading about our Corporate Responsibility work below.


Campaign for Accountability works to hold powerful and well-connected corporations accountable for their actions.

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BlackRock Transparency Project

In June 2018, CfA launched the BlackRock Transparency Project to track the political influence of the world’s largest asset manager. Highlights from the BlackRock Transparency Project include our reports on BlackRock’s “Access and Influence” Business Model, BlackRock’s leaky “Chinese Wall”, BlackRock’s role in the Canada Infrastructure Bank, and BlackRock’s questionable infrastructure deals in Mexico. We’ve also analyzed BlackRock’s Washington Playbook, and we’ve tracked the revolving door between BlackRock and key government agencies.

Payday Lending Industry

CfA has also worked to uncover unethical behavior in the payday lending industry. In November 2015, we released a report entitled Academic Deception, which exposed the payday lending industry’s efforts to produce so-called “academic research” to promote its agenda. Our report revealed that the payday lending industry manufactured at least one academic study in a desperate attempt to cover up the fact that payday loans ensnare borrowers in an endless cycle of debt.

Furthermore, in June 2015, CfA filed an open records request seeking information about a payday lending study conducted by a professor at Kennesaw State University in Georgia.  After nearly three years of litigation, the Supreme Court of Georgia unanimously ruled in CfA’s favor and ordered the release of the requested records. As CfA detailed in a report entitled Academic for Hire, the records revealed that a lawyer for the payday lending industry, Hilary Miller, funded, designed, and edited the academic study defending the payday lending industry.

Other Actions

In August 2017, CfA filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to follow up on a Seattle Times/Center for Public Integrity investigation into predatory lending practices of Clayton Homes, one of the nation’s largest mobile home sellers.

In January 2017, we called on federal authorities to investigate OneWest Bank for using potentially illegal tactics to foreclose on as many as 80,000 California homes. Steve Mnuchin, who was nominated and later confirmed for the position of U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, previously served as the CEO of OneWest.

Shortly after Donald Trump was elected President, CfA asked the Obama administration to publicly release information regarding security for Trump Organization properties around the world. CfA sought to ensure that the Trump Organization was acting ethically while providing for the safety of guests and visitors worldwide.

Next Priority

State Oversight

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