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New federal trade commission rules may affect employees

Q&A with Tony Puckett

published in The Oklahoman | March 3, 2010

Labor and employment attorney and McAfee & Taft shareholder Tony Puckett was featured in The Oklahoman discussing new rules from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that address employee endorsements and testimonials in new media.

The FTC is requiring companies to disclose “material connections” between an endorser and the company.  It specifically refers to employees of consumer product companies who promote the company’s product through online discussion boards and other forms of new media, including blogs and social networking sites.  The FTC states that the weight or credibility of the endorsement is likely affected by the employee’s employment and the employee should “clearly and conspicuously” disclose the relationship to readers.

When discussing how this could affect employers, Puckett said, “Potential employer liability could exist even if the comments were not authorized and were made without the employer’s knowledge.”  He recommends that companies address online comments about the employer’s products or services in its employee social media policy.  “In comments to the new rules, the FTC states that establishment of ‘appropriate procedures’ by a company to prevent employee endorsements would be a factor in considering whether to pursue enforcement actions against a company,” Puckett said.