FCC Staffers Routinely Held Stock In Telecom Giants They Regulated

from the normalized-corruption dept

Federal law specifically bans Federal Communications Commission (FCC) employees from owning “any stocks, bonds, or other securities of [any company] significantly regulated by the Commission.” That’s apparently news to FCC employees.

A new report (hat tip, Ars Technica) by nonprofit watchdog group Campaign Legal Center found that numerous employees hold stock in Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, and other telecom giants despite the restrictions. And despite these financial conflicts of interest being abundantly evident in publicly available financial disclosures, FCC ethics officials did absolutely nothing about it, for years.

The data reviewed came from 2018 and 2019, when then FCC boss Ajit Pai was busy doling out every last fevered dream of media and telecom giants, ranging from the repeal of net neutrality to the erosion of longstanding media consolidation limits:

Citing the most recent financial disclosure reports, which cover the Chairman Ajit Pai-era years of 2018 and 2019, the Campaign Legal Center report said FCC official Rosemary Harold owned Comcast stock with a value between $3,003 and $45,000. Harold was the FCC Enforcement Bureau chief during that time and is now a deputy chief with the FCC Media Bureau. The report also said former FCC official Lisa Hone, then a deputy bureau chief, owned Charter Communications stock worth between $4,004 and $60,000.

Hone and former FCC Chief Information Security Officer Andrea Simpson owned AT&T stock, with the two employees’ AT&T holdings adding up to somewhere between $2,203 and $31,001, the report said. Harold and former Chief Technology Officer Eric Burger reportedly owned Verizon stock with a combined value between $7,007 and $105,000. The wide stock value ranges are a result of how employee stock holdings are reported in financial disclosure forms.

This is, of course, small potatoes in the broader context of government financial conflicts of interest and insider trading, but ignoring it still normalizes corruption. And the more normalized it is, the less overall incentive the FCC has to hold telecom giants accountable for much of anything, be it their widespread abuse of sensitive location data, or their massive, well documented history of fraud.

The Campaign Legal Center not only sent its findings to the FCC, it also sent a letter to the US Office of Government Ethics urging it to, you know, do its job.

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Companies: campaign legal center

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