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The University Magazine

Keeping an eye on the Federal Trade Commission

John Seeba '79

While studying accounting at RIT, John Seeba '79 figured he would become a CPA and work in private practice or for a corporate accounting office. A co-op assignment with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs changed all that.

Seeba developed an affinity for government finance and following graduation was hired full time by the VA. That began a career that culminated in his appointment as inspector general of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in January 2008.

"I never really planned to enter public service," Seeba says. "But the experience at the VA illustrated for me how important government work is and that it can be incredibly gratifying."

As inspector general, Seeba leads a team that is responsible for conducting audits and investigations of the FTC, the regulatory agency that protects consumers against undue monopolistic business practices and fraud, including identity theft. Nearly all federal agencies are required to have an inspector general's office, which is semi-autonomous of the agency and reports to Congress on the financial integrity of the department and the IG's activities to eliminate fraud, waste and abuse.

"The inspector general is responsible for reviewing the way an agency uses public funds and reporting its findings to the public," says Seeba. "We serve as another check on the executive branch."

Prior to joining the FTC, Seeba served in a number of increasingly important posts within the Inspector General Offices of the Department of Defense, U.S. Postal Service and Department of Commerce. Despite the often adversarial investigative components of these positions, Seeba has a strong belief in the positive power of government.

"I have definitely seen the best and the worst of government agencies and employees," he says. "But the overwhelming majority of government servants are passionate and dedicated to their jobs and truly want to make the world a better place. Being able to assist these people in better serving the public has been very rewarding."

Seeba also notes that the inspector general must hold himself and his staff to high standards of integrity to properly monitor the conduct of others. In performing this task, he always tries to remember advice given by one of his favorite professors at RIT.

"I was actually in one of the last classes taught by Professor William Gasser before he died," Seeba says. "One of the main points he instilled in us was the fact that integrity is the foundation for everything a CPA does and without it our work has no impact. This continues to drive my actions as inspector general both to promote the honesty of my office and to enhance the integrity of the FTC as a whole."

Will Dube