WASHINGTON, DC — A new report released today by government watchdog Accountable.US details major financial conflicts of interest involving Judge John Campbell Barker, the Trump-appointed federal judge assigned to oversee the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s lawsuit seeking to block the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) new rule banning non-competes nationwide – an effort poised to boost worker earnings by $488 billion over the next decade. Accountable.US found that Judge Barker owns hundreds of thousands of dollars in stock in three of the largest tech companies in the world: Apple, Amazon, and International Business Machines (IBM), the latter two being U.S. Chamber-members, and all of which are notorious for their use of noncompete agreements to prohibit employees from pursuing new opportunities – a lucrative enough practice that the US Chamber opted to sue on behalf of its corporate funders.

While the lawsuit is currently paused while another court weighs in first, the lawsuit is expected to proceed after. In light of these serious conflicts of interest and with so much at stake for American workers, Accountable.US is calling for Judge Barker’s immediate recusal in the case.

Judge Barker’s heavy investment in U.S. Chamber-member tech corporations notorious for shackling employees with non-competes is an overwhelming cause for recusal in this case. If Judge Barker should decide millions of Americans are not free to seek better pay and working conditions, big businesses that abuse the noncompete practice stand to gain -- and so would their wealthy investors like Barker. The corporate-funded U.S. Chamber is counting on Barker not to recuse despite his clear conflicts of interest. It’s all part of the Chamber’s longtime legal strategy of venue shopping industry lawsuits in courtrooms of least resistance.”

Accountable.US’ Liz Zelnick


  • Judge Barker owns up to $65,000 in Amazon stock across two brokerage accounts. Amazon has been widely scrutinized for its use of noncompetes and other anti-competitive behavior, including filing a wrongful suit against a former employee in February 2021 and lobbying Washington state lawmakers to lower the cap under which noncompete agreements can be enforced. 
  • Judge Barker owns as much as $500,000 in Apple stock – another tech giant that has wrongfully gone after former employees alleging breaking noncompetes. In April 2024, Jon Stewart also said Apple had previously discouraged him from interviewing FTC Chair Lina Khan while he was employed by the company.
  • Barker also owns between $50,001 and $100,000 in International Business Machines (IBM) stock. IBM—a U.S. Chamber board member—had a February 2011 lawsuit thrown out by a judge over its “‘overbroad”‘ use of noncompetes seen as an effort to pressure employees from leaving the company. IBM also sued a former executive after she joined rival Accenture, claiming she had to return $470,000 in equity compensation.

A WORSENING JUDGE SHOPPING CRISIS: On April 24, the U.S. Chamber filed its suit against the FTC in the Eastern District of Texas – continuing their pattern of judge shopping in courtrooms that fall under the jurisdiction of the conservative Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. The U.S. Chamber’s lawyers were no doubt pleased the case went to Judge Barker, who recently sided with them in another challenge against rulemaking from the National Labor Relations Board. Accountable.US has previously documented Judge Barker’s ties to the Leonard Leo network and his history of industry sympathizing and defending discrimination.

Accountable.US’ latest findings follow the recusal in March by Northern District of Texas Judge Reed O’Connor in another U.S. Chamber lawsuit seeking to block the CFPB’s rule capping credit card late fees. The decision came shortly after Judge O’Connor was confronted with Accountable.US’ findings that he is invested in up to tens of thousands of dollars in credit card-issuing companies, including U.S. Chamber members.




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