Inspector general finds conflict of interest at World Business Chicago

July 26, 2011

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Chicago's Inspector General says he's found a major conflict of interest that exposes how business leaders in the city can help guarantee government money for their own companies. World Business Chicago is an organization funded by the city tasked with growing Chicago's economy. Its board members include some of the most power business leaders and CEOs in the region; from United Airlines to Motorola Solutions to the Pritzker Group.

But Chicago's Inspector General Joe Ferguson said he's found a blatant loophole related to the organization. Ferguson said the way it works is that when a company applies for grants or subsidies with the city, they get letters of support from outside groups saying how important that money would be. Sometimes, it turns out, that outside group is World Business Chicago. So CEOs can vouch for their own business not as a CEO, but as a member of the city-financed agency.

Ferguson recommended World Business Chicago stops advocating for businesses applying for government money. In a statement, a spokeswoman for Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who is chairman of World Business Chicago, said they mayor's office will consider a broader conflict-of-interest policy.