UPDATE The FCC and global carrier Truphone reached a settlement to resolve the Commission’s Notice of Apparent Liability issued against the company in April for failing to disclose accurate ownership stakes held by foreign entities and transferring control of FCC licenses and authorization without Commission approval. Because of its inaccuracies, control of the company’s FCC licenses was transferred repeatedly to unvetted and unapproved foreign individuals and entities, according to the agency. The ownership transfers occurred without accurate disclosure to and review by the Commission and Executive Branch agencies for national security, law enforcement, foreign policy, or trade policy concerns as required by law, the Commission said.
As part of the Consent Decree with the Enforcement Bureau, Truphone admits guilt and will pay a civil penalty of $600,000, slightly below the original $660,639 fine proposed by the agency. It will also develop and follow a compliance plan to prevent future occurrences.
The FCC said Truphone did not receive Commission approval before an unapproved foreign individual/entity acquired more than five percent of the carrier. Among these transfers, Truphone has stated that, as of March 15, a 22.8 percent interest in the company is indirectly held by a trust established for the benefit solely of the family members of Roman Abramovich, who is a citizen of Israel, Portugal and Russia.
The agreement requires any stake in Truphone held by Abramovich, Alexander Abramov and Alexander Frolov, both citizens of Russia and Cyprus, to be divested.
Truphone agreed to file all overdue and incomplete forms for the Commission to conduct a review of its ownership structure to assess whether it warrants a referral to the Committee for the Assessment of Foreign Participation in the United States Telecommunications Services Sector. Truphone agreed to take steps to ensure that it has a process in place so that no individuals or entities designated by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control, through its Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List, have any ownership or investment interests in the company.
“Pursuing unauthorized transactions that impact foreign ownership, control, or investment in entities that possess FCC authorizations or licenses is one of our top priorities,” said Acting Enforcement Bureau Chief Loyaan Egal. “The terms reached in this settlement agreement reflect the Enforcement Bureau’s continued efforts to work closely with our colleagues in the FCC’s International Bureau and our partners in the Team Telecom Committee and throughout the interagency to ensure that access to the telecommunications services market in the United States remains consistent with U.S. national security and law enforcement interests.”
Since Russia invaded Ukraine, the FCC has been combing through communications licensees, looking for Russia-owned communications entities that operate in the United States, Inside Towers reported. In April, Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel directed the International Bureau to conduct such an assessment and said this action was an outcome of that review.
By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief