Outside of a Mobil Gas Station in the West Village on Sunday, Senator Chuck Schumer unveiled his plan to prevent gas price gouging by filling the vacant Federal Trade Commission (FTC) seat this week, allowing for oversight over big oil companies while investigating stock buybacks.
“There is something rotten in the state of Denmark,” Senator Schumer began, quoting Hamlet. “Here in the West Village, in New York, in Long Island, and in the whole country and that’s about gas prices.”
Schumer explained that the average gas price around the country is well over $4, and in some areas in New York and California they can reach over $6; however, he also says local gas station owners are not to be blamed but instead points the finger at the corporate parents.
“Last year, the top 25 oil and gas companies reported a combined $205 billion, with a ‘B’, in profits, and instead of giving Americans a break at the gas pump, they’ve used their gushing profits to reward shareholders with stock buybacks, which demands answers and inquiry,” Schumer said. “We know that Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine has contributed to higher prices at the pump, the same with COVID-related supply issues, but big oil, in my opinion, is using both these issues to pull to wool over all our eyes as it cashes in more and more. It’s time for inquiry at the FTC level, and beyond. I intend to fill the current FTC vacant seat this week, installing Alvaro Bedoya. An equipped FTC can help address the issues of gouging, tacit collusion and so many more.”
Schumer cites a report by the Friends of the Earth, Public Citizen and BailoutWatch, detailing how since Russia invaded Ukraine, the nation’s biggest oil and gas companies’ stock increased exponentially. The Senate Majority Leader believes that the best way to curtail this war profiteering is by filling the FTC seat so that the commission can investigate stock buybacks, oil companies’ financial engineering, profit surges, and other unscrupulous activity that has caused consumer pockets to suffer the brunt.
“What have they done with those profits? Have they returned them to consumers? During the crisis in Ukraine they tried to pitch in? No. They are increasing their stock buybacks which benefit the big corporate owners. They are benefiting their stock buybacks which benefit the rich shareholders. They are not doing what they should be doing. In addition, they dramatically increase dividends as well. At this time of crisis, they shouldn’t be doing that,” Schumer said.
The war between Russia and Ukraine began on February 24, and just prior to the invasion seven companies’ boards authorized buyback and retire $24.35 billion in stock in the month of January and February, according to the report by Friends of the Earth, Public Citizen and BailoutWatch.
“The bottom line here is that with Big Oil pumping out profits as consumers struggle, a closer look by the FTC is warranted, and with the addition of Mr. Bedoya to the FTC, that can happen,” said Schumer.