LeBlanc Responds to Criticism of the FCC’s Enforcement Process
On November 25, FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief Travis LeBlanc penned a blog post outlining the Commission’s enforcement process and touting the upward trend in recent years in collecting fines issued for violations of the Communications Act and the Commission’s rules. The post was written in response to a recent Politico article suggesting that the agency may be more interested in grabbing headlines rather than actually collecting the massive fines it has announced in recent years. In the post, Mr. LeBlanc explains that the Enforcement Bureau is required to follow a series of steps when pursuing an enforcement action “in order to protect the integrity of the investigations and ensure fairness to the companies involved.” These steps are as follows:
- The Enforcement Bureau issues a Notice of Apparent Liability (“NAL”) for an alleged violation of the Communications Act.
- The company has approximately 30 days to respond to the NAL.
- The Bureau reviews the responses, conducts additional investigation as needed, and determines whether to proceed with the penalty proposed in the NAL.
- If the Bureau seeks to enforce the proposed fine, it submits the case to the full Commission for a vote to issue a Forfeiture Order (the Commission can also resolve the investigation by reaching a settlement agreement with the company).
- A company that receives a Forfeiture Order can challenge the action before the Commission.
- After all challenges have been exhausted, the fine must be paid. If not, the Commission will refer the matter to the Department of Justice for collection.