An FCC ‘Abuse Of Process Ends Now’


By Adam R Jacobson

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Power of Pai might sound like a great cookbook from a chef who has spent some time in Northern Thailand.

Ajit PaiBut, it’s probably a more accurate description of how the freshly minted Chairman of the FCC has put his flavor into the Commission less than a month into the job.

Process reform measures have been coming fast and furious from 445 12th St., S.W., and on Wednesday afternoon Pai took another big step toward agency transparency by instituting “an important process reform measure” that allows Commissioners to become more fully involved in the agency’s enforcement activities.

What has Pai done?  He’s put an end to consent decrees settling an Enforcement Bureau Notice of Apparent Liability of Forfeiture Order issued by the full Commission without a vote of approval by the full Commission.

“That abuse of process ends now,” Pai said.

One of the ways in which the Enforcement Bureau resolves an investigation is by entering into a consent decree, in which the party being investigated agrees to comply with certain terms in exchange for the government closing its inquiry.

Over the past few years, in cases in which the full Commission has previously voted to propose and/or impose a forfeiture, such consent decrees have generally not been presented to the Commissioners for a vote, Pai noted.

“Instead, they have simply been signed by the Chief of the Enforcement Bureau at the direction of the Chairman’s Office,” he explained. “Indeed, many times, Commissioners were barely given any notice of such consent decrees before they were publicly released by the Bureau.”

Such activities have been permanently put to bed — effective immediately.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Enforcement Bureau circulated a consent decree for the Commission’s consideration that would conclude an important investigation previously approved by the full Commission.

“If Commissioners vote to propose and/or impose a forfeiture, the Enforcement Bureau should not settle that matter without their approval,” Pai said.

By requiring a vote of approval by the full Commission, “This will help promote Commissioners’ involvement in and accountability for important enforcement decisions,” Pai said. “I look forward to working closely with my colleagues on that matter, and other consumer protection efforts in the months to come.”

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