Under pressure from Democratic presidential rival Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg on Tuesday released the names of clients he worked for at the management consulting firm that employed him a decade ago.
Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., worked for the Best Buy electronics chain, the U.S. Postal Service, the Pentagon, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and a coalition of power companies and environmental groups when they were clients of the firm, McKinsey & Co.
“Now, voters can see for themselves that my work amounted to mostly research and analysis,” he said. “They can also see that I value both transparency and keeping my word. Neither of these qualities are something we see coming out of Washington, especially from this White House.”
Buttigieg said he had “little decision-making authority” at McKinsey, where he worked from 2007 to 2010. The consulting firm advises clients on cost-cutting and management efficiency.
His first assignment was assessing overhead expenses such as rent and company travel for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. It did not involve policies, premiums or benefits, Buttigieg said. He described his work over three months as “on-the-job training to develop skills in the use of spreadsheets and presentation software.”
Asked on MSNBC whether his work was part of what led to the insurer’s layoff of 1,000 employees two years later, Buttigieg said, “I doubt it,” and went on to criticize rivals who want to eliminate private health insurance and extend public Medicare coverage to all Americans. “What I do know is that there are some voices in the Democratic primary right now who are calling for a policy that would eliminate the job of every single American working at every single insurance company in the country,” he said.
Buttigieg‘s next job at McKinsey was to analyze the effects of price cuts for Loblaws, a Canadian supermarket chain, over six months in 2008. Nearly a decade later, Loblaws admitted engaging in a price-fixing scheme from 2001 to 2014 to inflate the cost of packaged bread. The Buttigieg campaign said he knew nothing about the bread scam.
Also in 2008, Buttigieg was assigned to investigate opportunities for Best Buy to sell energy-efficient products.
After that, Buttigieg said, he worked on a project in Connecticut for a coalition of utilities, government agencies and environmental groups. The job was to research opportunities to fight climate change for the group’s report, “Unlocking Energy Efficiency in the U.S. Economy.” The group included PG&E Corp., Sempra Energy, the U.S. Energy Department, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Buttigieg’s work at the firm also included a Defense Department project in Iraq and Afghanistan. He researched ways to boost employment and entrepreneurship in the two countries.
His last study at McKinsey was for the U.S. Postal Service. He worked to identify and analyze potential new sources of revenue.
Buttigieg has said for months that he wanted to publicly identify the clients, but could not get permission from McKinsey to break his confidentiality agreement. On Monday, McKinsey released him from the deal, saying the clients had consented to disclosure because of “the unique circumstances presented by a presidential campaign.”
The 37-year-old war veteran has come under mounting criticism from Warren and other opponents as he has risen to the top of the polls in Iowa, the first state to hold a nominating contest in the Democratic presidential race. “I think voters want to know about possible conflicts of interest,” Warren said last week.
Buttigieg, in turn, urged the Massachusetts senator to divulge details of the income she received as a corporate consultant during her years as a law professor at Harvard University and other schools. On Sunday night, Warren released records detailing nearly $2 million in consulting work she did for a variety of clients, including Dow Chemical and the insurance firm Travelers Indemnity Co.
To Warren and other Buttigieg rivals, the secrecy surrounding his work at McKinsey has offered a tempting target. McKinsey’s image has been battered in recent years as news stories revealed its work for authoritarian regimes, opioid manufacturers and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. It was Buttigieg’s first job after he graduated from Harvard University and finished his Rhodes Scholarship at Oxford.