FCC Says Ethics Officials Believed Employees “In Compliance” after Watchdog Reports on Staff Owning Stock in Comcast, Charter, AT&T, and Verizon

Image: FCC

Last week the nonprofit watchdog group Campaign Legal Center sent a letter to the FCC reporting on staff owning stocks in Comcast, Charter Communications, AT&T, and Verizon. The nonprofit’s complaint, which was sent to FCC Acting Inspector General Sharon Diskin, states that “Federal law specifically bans FCC employees from owning ‘any stocks, bonds, or other securities of [any company] significantly regulated by the Commission,” and that “Despite this ban, the most recent financial disclosures publicly available show that ethics officials allowed multiple FCC employees to own stock in telecommunications and other companies that appear to fall under the prohibition.” The FCC says that ethics officials believed employee investments complied with the rules per a statement obtained from the WSJ.

From the Wall Street Journal:

“Each of the public financial reports that disclosed the stock holdings was signed by ethics officials at the FCC, an indication that the agency believed the investments complied with the rules,”

Ars Technica has been following the efforts of the nonprofit group that is urging the US Ethics office to investigate the matter. The group’s letter also states “The ethics officials responsible for enforcing this law apparently approved these trades without issuing a waiver as required,” and goes on to quote the rule regarding such waivers.

“The DAEO may waive the applicability of 47 U.S.C. § 154(b)(2)(A) at the
employee’s request and at the recommendation of the head of the employee’s office
or bureau.11 In such an instance, the FCC must publish a notice of the waiver in the
Federal Register and provide notice to the appropriate congressional committees.12
The notice must include the person who receives the waiver’s identity, their
position, and the nature of their financial interests.13″

The group’s report tracks data from financial disclosure reports spanning 2018 through 2022 that have shown multiple officials within the Federal Communications Commission owing stocks in companies it regulates. Former FCC Enforcement Bureau chief Rosemary Harold (who is now deputy chief with the FCC Media Bureau) was said to have owned between $3,003-$45,000 worth of Comcast stock when Ajit Pai was chairman in 2018-2019. Another official, Lisa Hone, was reported as having stock in Charter Communications worth between $4,004-$60,000. The report also details more investments and why they are a bit more complicated to track.

From Ars Technica:

“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.”

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Peter Brosdahl
As a child of the 70’s I was part of the many who became enthralled by the video arcade invasion of the 1980’s. Saving money from various odd jobs I purchased my first computer from a friend of my dad, a used Atari 400, around 1982. Eventually it would end up being a lifelong passion of upgrading and modifying equipment that, of course, led into a career in IT support.

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