Buttigieg says he doubts consulting work for insurer led to layoffs

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg said Tuesday night that he does not believe his consulting work at a health insurance company led to layoffs after he left.

"I doubt it," Buttigieg told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow when asked if there was a correlation between his work at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan in 2007 and layoffs two years later.

"I don't know what happened in the time after I left. That was in 2007, when they decided to shrink in 2009."

A spokesperson for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan also played down Buttigieg's work for the company, saying that "for a brief time" he was "part of a larger McKinsey team we engaged back in 2007 to consult with our company during a corporate-wide reorganization."

"He was not involved as a leader on that team, but rather as part of the larger consultant group," the spokesperson said, according to The Associated Press.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan was Buttigieg's first client at McKinsey, according to a list of his consulting clients released by his campaign on Tuesday.

The project lasted approximately three months and "looked at overhead expenditures such as rent, utilities, and company travel," his campaign said.

"The project he was assigned to did not involve policies, premiums, or benefits," according to his campaign. "Because this was his first client study, it largely involved on-the-job training to develop skills in the use of spreadsheets and presentation software." 

Buttigieg, now the mayor of South Bend, Ind., and a top-tier candidate in the 2020 Democratic primary, has faced scrutiny in recent days over his three-year stint working at the global consulting powerhouse.

The attention over his work there ramped up in recent weeks as activists criticized McKinsey's work for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and his primary opponents pushed him to increase transparency over his work at the firm. 

Buttigieg said he was initially barred from disclosing his past clients due to a nondisclosure agreement but was ultimately released from the arrangement.

A timeline of his three-year tenure at McKinsey showed that Buttigieg worked on at least seven projects between 2007 and 2010 and worked with clients including Best Buy, Canadian supermarket chain Loblaws, the U.S. Postal Service, the Energy Foundation, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy, along with several utility companies and other environmental groups. 

Buttigieg said in a statement on Tuesday that the timeline provided evidence that his work at McKinsey focused primarily on "research and analysis."

"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. It's time for that to change," he said.

Buttigieg went on offense Tuesday night, defending his work with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan with a veiled swipe at Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), the top two progressives in the primary race who have proposed health care reform plans that would ultimately lead to the elimination of private insurance.

"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.