Ranking Member Grijalva, Rep. Huffman Urge Securities Regulators to Investigate Wildlife Trafficking Complaint Against Facebook

Washington, D.C. – Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), ranking member of the Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans, sent a letter today to Jay Clayton, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), urging him to investigate credible accusations that Facebook has been used to perpetrate illegal wildlife trafficking worth tens of millions of dollars. As a publicly traded entity, Facebook must abide by an SEC mandate to disclose potential bottom-line risks to shareholders stemming from patterns of behavior by the company – a mandate the lawmakers say Facebook may have violated by not disclosing the risk of fines, penalties or boycotts stemming from potential wildlife trafficking enforcement actions or sustained public shaming.

The letter, available at http://bit.ly/2jWaBwb, follows a whistleblower complaint filed with the SEC against Facebook in April, shortly before CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s congressional testimony. The complaint claims that Facebook has knowingly sold advertising space on pages run by illegal wildlife traffickers operating on its platform.

The letter calls on the agency to investigate the issues raised in the whistleblower complaint. The Natural Resources Committee has jurisdiction over the Endangered Species Act and the Lacey Act, both of which seek to protect at-risk species from trafficking and other risky human behaviors.

Such SEC investigations are not uncommon, and do not always indicate that a company under investigation has committed other crimes. Grijalva and Huffman point out that even if Facebook is not profiting directly from the illegal wildlife trafficking conducted on its platform, the company may be violating the SEC’s corporate disclosure mandates by not discussing with shareholders the risks of potential enforcement actions or public outrage.

The letter reads in part:

Facebook’s Community Standards state that they “prohibit the use of Facebook to facilitate or organize criminal activity that causes physical harm to people, businesses or animals…” However, investigations by numerous organizations demonstrate that the efforts by Facebook do not go far enough. For example, Facebook should better cooperate with law enforcement and shut down the accounts of known traders. One month after Facebook announced joining the Global Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online, trafficking investigators said they had not seen a decline in the sale of illegal products on Facebook. Wildlife advocates continue to find Facebook pages with corporate ads alongside illicit posts selling illegal animal parts.

Press Contact

Media Contact: Adam Sarvana (Grijalva)

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