Ajit Pai Advisor Arrested on Fraud Charges

2 minute read
| Editorial

So get this: one of the industry suits FCC Chairman Ajit Pai brought on as an advisor has been arrested for fraud. The story comes to us in two parts, the first being a Wall Street Journal story about Elizabeth Pierce, former CEO of Alaska fiber optics firm Quintillion, being arrested for fraud. StopTheGap (via TheVerge) then noted Ms. Pierce had been selected by Mr. Pai to head his Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (BDAC).

Is it Mr. Pai’s fault she’s an alleged crook? No, but it surely reinforces my extremely negative perceptions of Ajit Pai that someone brought on to help his radical deregulatory agenda is being accused of fraud.

Ajit Pai, Destroyer of Net Neutrality

Ajit Pai, Destroyer of Net Neutrality

Elizabeth Pierce’s Alleged Misdeed

The specifics aren’t all that important to my point above, but here’s what she’s accused of doing. Ms. Pierce allegedly forged contracts from potential customers to get some New York-based investors to pony up a quarter of a billion dollars to invest in Quintillion.

“As it turned out, those sales agreements were worthless because the customers had not signed them,” U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said, according to The Wall Street Journal. “Instead, as alleged, Pierce had forged counterparty signatures on contract after contract. As a result of Pierce’s deception, the investment companies were left with a system that is worth far less than Pierce had led them to believe.”

Ajit Pai’s Attraction

StopTheGap theorized Ajit Pai may have been interested in Ms. Pierce because she complained about burdensome regulations. From that publication:

Pierce may have attracted FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s attention after publicly complaining the permitting process in Alaska took longer than building fiber cables from scratch and shipping them from Europe. Out of more than 380 applicants, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai picked Pierce in 2017 to head his new broadband advisory committee, tasked with eliminating or streamlining regulations and making life easier for broadband providers to persuade them to expand broadband rollouts.

That seems like a good read on the situation, as Ajit Pai is hell-bent on deregulating Internet-related telecommunications markets, regardless of the facts. Ms. Pierce is allegedly a bird of a similar feather, as she was arguing her company was worth investing in, regardless of the facts.

[FCC Votes with Ajit Pai to End Net Neutrality in Party Line Vote]

To Quintillion’s credit, the company discovered the alleged misdeed and self-reported to the U.S. Justice Department. Ms. Pierce then stepped down from her company in August of 2017, and a month later, she stepped down from her BDAC position.

Yep

Confirmation bias is a thing. I think Ajit Pai’s business philosophies are corrupt and backed up by lies, so it doesn’t surprise me one of his industry advisors who cried about regulations was arrested for corruption. I readily acknowledge it could be an unconnected development, but I’m enjoying a moment of “Ha!”

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Old UNIX GuyJohn Kheit Recent comment authors

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John Kheit
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John Kheit

I do think a lot of regulations are overly burdensome, so I can see someone complaining about that being an attractive pick for someone trying to reduce regulations. Her deeds seem pretty low and I’m not sure how this could have come up in some vetting process. That said, no matter how you cut it, pretty bad decision picking her. And seems to establish a pattern of bad decisions.

Old UNIX Guy
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Old UNIX Guy

These “bad decisions” pale in insignificance to the one made by the American people on November 8th, 2016.

Old UNIX Guy