Pete Buttigieg, in secrecy spat with Elizabeth Warren, will reveal his McKinsey clients

Pete Buttigieg
Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg got permission Monday to disclose the identity of his clients at McKinsey & Co. from 2007 to 2010.
(Nati Harnik / Associated Press)

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg was freed Monday from a confidentiality pact that barred him from publicly identifying the clients of a controversial management consulting firm that employed him a decade ago.

The mayor of South Bend, Ind., was facing growing pressure from Democratic rival Elizabeth Warren and others to reveal specifics of the work he performed for McKinsey & Co., but the firm had declined to give him permission until Monday.

In a written statement, McKinsey said it recognized “the unique circumstances presented by a presidential campaign.”

“After receiving permission from the relevant clients, we have informed Mr. Buttigieg that he may disclose the identity of the clients he served while at McKinsey from 2007 to 2010,” it said. “Any description of his work for those clients still must not disclose confidential, proprietary or classified information obtained during the course of that work, or violate any security clearance.”


Buttigieg spokeswoman Lis Smith said the mayor would soon make his client list public.

The promised disclosure comes as Buttigieg and Warren have been sparring over the secrecy surrounding some of the work each has done in the private sector. Both are leading contenders for their party’s 2020 presidential nomination.

On Thursday, Warren challenged Buttigieg to release the names of his McKinsey clients, saying, “I think voters want to know about possible conflicts of interest.”

Warren has also called on Buttigieg to start letting reporters into his private fundraisers, saying, “No one should be left to wonder what kind of promises are being made to the people who have been ponying up big bucks to be in the room.”

Buttigieg agreed Monday to open his fundraising events to the news media and disclose the names of people bundling contributions for the 37-year-old war veteran.

“Our campaign strives to be the most transparent in the field,” Buttigieg campaign manager Mike Schmuhl said.

Warren has declined to hold private fundraisers during the presidential primaries, but Buttigieg has pointed out that she often did so while running for Senate. “She was for it before she was against it,” he told ABC News.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren released records showing she made nearly $2 million as a corporate consultant when she was a law professor.
(Seth Wenig / Associated Press)

The Buttigieg campaign has also accused Warren of hiding her work as a lawyer years ago for “the types of bad actors she now denounces,” as Smith put it on Twitter. On Sunday night, the Massachusetts senator released records detailing nearly $2 million in consulting work she did when she was a law professor with expertise in bankruptcy at Harvard University and other schools. Her clients included Dow Chemical and the insurance firm Travelers Indemnity Co.

Buttigieg, a Harvard graduate, has described in general terms the work he did for McKinsey, but said he could not disclose the names of specific clients without the firm’s consent to break his nondisclosure agreement.

McKinsey advises companies and governments on cost-cutting and management efficiencies. It has drawn criticism in recent years for its work for authoritarian regimes around the world, opioid manufacturers and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“As somebody who left the firm a decade ago, seeing what certain people in that firm have decided to do is extremely frustrating and extremely disappointing,” Buttigieg said Wednesday.

On Friday, Buttigieg released new details about his confidential work for the firm but without divulging the names of the clients. In 2008, he advised a grocery and retail chain in the Toronto area on the effects of price cuts on products it was selling. In 2009, he worked in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as Washington, for “a U.S. government department in a project focused on increasing employment and entrepreneurship in those countries’ economies.”

He said his last assignment for McKinsey was to identify and analyze new revenue sources for a logistics and shipping provider.