A watchdog group is demanding an investigation into why at least nine FCC officials were allowed to hold stock in regulated cable and tech companies such as AT&T, HP and Verizon.
The findings(Opens in a new window) come from Campaign Legal Center (CLC), a nonprofit, nonpartisan group which looked at the most recent financial disclosure reports available for FCC staffers from 2018 to 2019. The reports show that Lisa Hone, an FCC deputy bureau chief, owned stock in AT&T and Charter Communications, with the holdings each valued between $1,000 to $15,001.
In another example, an FCC enforcement bureau chief named Rosemary Harold owned stock in Comcast and Verizon, also valued between $1,000 to $15,001.
Although the nine officials disclosed the stock holdings, the CLC notes that federal rules(Opens in a new window) ban FCC staffers from owning securities in any company “significantly regulated” by the commission. Other regulated companies the staffers held stock in include IBM, HP, Dell and Sony, among others.
“The public has a right to know that the officials who regulate an integral sector of our society are acting in the public’s interest, not in their own private financial interest,” CLC wrote in its letter(Opens in a new window) on Monday to the US Office of Government Ethics.
The same financial disclosure reports also show the FCC’s ethics team signing off on the stock ownership. As a result, the watchdog group is calling for US authorities to investigate why FCC’s own ethics personnel allowed the nine staffers to own the stock holdings in spite of the federal ban.
“Federal law tries to prevent the risk to the public’s trust when FCC employees have financial conflicts of interest by explicitly restricting ownership of certain stocks. However, these restrictions are meaningless if they are not enforced,” the CLC added in a separate letter(Opens in a new window) to the FCC’s inspector general.
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The FCC didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. But the regulator told(Opens in a new window) The Wall Street Journal that the FCC’s ethics officials believe that the identified staffers “have taken all necessary steps in order to ensure they were and are in full compliance with all relevant ethics conflict of interest rules.”
The Journal also notes that the FCC has in the past permitted staffers to own stock in Google because the company wasn’t considered to be regulated by the commission.
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