FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has put in place another process reform measure that he says will enable the commissioners “to become more fully involved in the agency’s enforcement activities.”
From time to time, the FCC Enforcement Bureau resolves cases by entering into a consent decree, in which the party under investigation agrees to comply with certain terms — and typically make a “voluntary contribution” to the US Treasury — in exchange for the government’s closing its inquiry.
“But 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 said in announcing the change. “Instead, they have simply been signed by the Chief of the Enforcement Bureau at the direction of the Chairman’s Office.” Pai said in many instances, the commissioners were given scant notice of consent decrees prior to their public release.
“That process ends now,” Pai said. “If Commissioners vote to propose and/or impose a forfeiture, the Enforcement Bureau should not settle that matter without their approval.” As of February 9, any consent decree settling a Notice of Apparent Liability or Forfeiture Order issued by the full Commission must now be approved by a vote of the full Commission. “This will help promote Commissioners’ involvement in and accountability for important enforcement decisions,” Pai said.