The Federal Trade Commission has asked a federal court to force former Trump campaign CEO Steve Bannon to testify under oath as part of the agency’s investigation into Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica data breach.
FTC prosecutors said they want to interview Bannon as part of a probe into whether he should be found personally liable for his involvement in the breach, in which the now-defunct political data firm improperly obtained information on about 50 million Facebook users. Before joining Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign team, Bannon served as vice president and a board member of Cambridge Analytica, which also did work for the president’s campaign.
The FTC filed suit last year against Cambridge Analytica and two of its senior executives: Aleksandr Kogan, who developed the app involved in the breach, and CEO Alexander Nix, both of whom settled with the agency. The FTC also fined Facebook $5 billion for failing to protect its users’ privacy.
Court filings: In court papers filed under seal last week, the FTC said Bannon agreed to appear for an in-person interview at the commission in September, but then didn’t show up. The FTC’s filings were unsealed Friday and a federal judge scheduled a hearing for Dec. 8 on the agency’s request.
FTC lawyers said they want to question Bannon about whether the Facebook user data collected by Cambridge Analytica still exists and was shared with anyone else.
“Any further delays in discovering additional information about where the deceptively obtained Facebook profile data may be located, or with whom it may have been shared, would further harm consumers,” the FTC’s lawyers said.
Previous difficulties: The FTC had some difficulty serving Bannon, the former executive chairman of Breitbart News, with a subpoena last year, but the agency said he was formally served in November 2019. An interview in March was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic. Bannon’s lawyers then negotiated a new interview for September, with the caveat that the former Trump strategist would invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in response to any questions.
In August, Bannon was separately charged with money laundering and conspiracy to commit wire fraud for allegedly using donations intended to build a private border wall on personal expenses. He pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The day before his scheduled interview in September, Bannon’s lawyers told the FTC he wouldn’t be coming. The FTC asked the court to require Bannon to sit for an interview under oath.