(Bloomberg) -- Senator Elizabeth Warren stepped up her criticism of some of the largest U.S. corporations and singled out senior-level government officials who accepted jobs at Facebook Inc., Wells Fargo & Co., BP Plc and Walmart Inc. after working for the federal government.
The Democratic presidential candidate vowed to impose hiring restrictions and fines that she said could reach trillions of dollars as part of her plan to tackle corruption in Washington.
“Today, it is standard practice in Republican and Democratic administrations for giant mega businesses like Pfizer, Google, BP, Citibank, AT&T, Boeing, and Comcast to vacuum up anyone and everyone who leaves one of their government regulators in an obvious effort to leverage their new hire’s political connections and use the allure of potential future job offers to extract favorable treatment,” Warren wrote in a post published Tuesday. “All of this hiring is perfectly legal right now -- but it shouldn’t be.”
Among the former officials she cited was Joel Kaplan, who became Facebook’s vice president of U.S. public policy two years after leaving his role as deputy chief of staff for policy for President George W. Bush. Warren also mentioned Beth Zorc, the former general counsel for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, who became Wells Fargo’s head of public policy.
Downey Magallanes, a former top aide to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, is now BP’s senior director for federal government affairs, and Walmart hired Rachel Brand, a former U.S. associate attorney general, as the head of global corporate governance.
Asked at a campaign stop in New Hampshire if a hiring restriction would discourage qualified people from working for the government, Warren said, “Good riddance to them.”
“You’re talking about the people who are desperately looking to take government jobs so that they can then boost their salaries later as lobbyists for the same industries that they are going to regulate?” Warren told reporters. “If they say they don’t want to be in public service unless they can be sure that there is a big fat pay day waiting for them as a government lobbyist, then my view is good riddance to them.”
Walmart hired Brand while the company was reaching a settlement with the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission over bribery of foreign government officials to fast-track store openings in Mexico, China, Brazil and India. The investigation was conducted under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which makes it illegal for U.S. companies to bribe foreign officials.
“During her tenure as associate attorney general at DOJ, Rachel was not involved in Foreign Corrupt Practices Act issues and had no oversight of the unit investigating the Walmart matter,” said Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove. “Since joining Walmart, Rachel has complied with all federal post-employment rules and regulations.”
BP defended its decision to hire Magallanes. “We seek to hire the best and brightest and are proud of the diverse team we have assembled and the expertise they bring to complicated policy issues,” the company said in an emailed statement.
Although Magallanes is a registered lobbyist for BP, according to disclosures filed with Congress, she hasn’t been part of teams lobbying the Interior Department.
Neither representatives of the other companies, nor the individuals mentioned, immediately responded to emailed requests seeking comment.
These staffing decisions are examples of companies that “use their monopoly profits to vacuum up government officials to secure favorable treatment,” Warren said in her post.
She vowed that, if elected, her administration would ban companies worth more than $150 billion or companies with over $5 million per year in federal contracts from hiring senior government officials for at least four years -- and impose multimillion-dollar fines for violations.
Warren has campaigned for the Democratic nomination by focusing on a message of transferring power away from big corporations and into the hands of workers and middle-class Americans. She’s released a variety of plans that promise to break up big technology and agriculture companies, block anti-competitive mergers, take big donors out of politics and end lobbying in Washington.
In her plan to curb the political influence of market-dominant companies, Warren said she would impose stiff penalties on companies that hire senior government officials less than four years after they leave their posts. A Warren administration would impose a 1% fine on a company’s profit for a first violation, 2% for a second violation and at least 5% for any subsequent violation of hiring recent federal officials.
“Companies should be able to hire talented people with government experience, and successful private-sector professionals should be encouraged to serve in government,” Warren said. “But giant corporations should compete on a level playing field -- and they shouldn’t be able to rig the system by scooping up every available former government official in an effort to get federal regulators off their backs.”
(Updates with Warren comment in 6th, 7th paragraphs.)
--With assistance from Jennifer A. Dlouhy.
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