Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker may have once been on the other side of the law.
Before Whitaker was appointed as the interim replacement for ousted Attorney General Jeff Sessions, he was on the advisory board for a Miami-based company called World Patent Marketing, the Miami New Times reported. In May, a Federal Trade Commission investigation led to a federal court shutting the business down.
Whitaker joined the marketing firm after his failed 2014 Senate run, which World Patent Marketing donated to, reports The Washington Post. But shortly after, the FTC opened a probe into allegations that the company had charged customers for services it never provided. The New Times spoke to customers who lost upwards of $400,000 each, and found an email in which Whitaker threatened a complaining customer with "serious civil or criminal consequences."
The FTC eventually filed a complaint against World Patent Marketing, calling it a "scam that has bilked thousands of consumers out of millions of dollars." The company apparently offered customers expensive "global patents," which don't even exist, per the complaint, relying on its "illustrious board" members like Whitaker to convince customers to pay up. A Florida federal court ruled in the FTC's favor, ordering World Patent Marketing to shut down and pay $25 million in damages. The company reportedly paid Whitaker nearly $10,000 before shuttering.
The FTC complaint and court ruling didn't specifically tie Whitaker to any wrongdoing, Gizmodo points out. Whitaker did not respond to the Post's requests for comment on the matter, and Justice Department and FTC spokespersons declined to comment. Read more about Whitaker's work with World Patent Marketing at The Miami New Times.