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Federal Communications Commission
Washington, D.C. 20554
In the matter of )
NORTHEAST UTILITIES ) File Number: EB-01-IH-0262
) NAL/Acct. Number:
Licensee of Various Land Mobile ) 20023208002
and Microwave Licenses ) FCC Registration Number:
Adopted: March 11, 2002 Released: March 12, 2002
By the Chief, Enforcement Bureau:
1. In this Forfeiture Order, we issue a monetary forfeiture in
the amount of $5,500 against Northeast Utilities for having
willfully and repeatedly violated Section 1.17 of the
Commission's rules.1 The violations relate to Northeast
Utilities' failure in three applications filed with the
Commission to properly disclose that it had been convicted of
2. On September 27, 1999, Northeast Utilities Service Company,
a subsidiary of Northeast Utilities, pleaded guilty to six counts
of violating the Clean Water Act. On the same day, Northeast
Nuclear Energy Company, another subsidiary of Northeast
Utilities, pleaded guilty to 19 counts of violating the Atomic
Energy Act by submitting false and inaccurate operator license
applications to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Each company
was ordered to pay a $3.35 million fine and was placed on
probation for three years. Each offense constituted a felony.
3. Between September 28, 1999, and November 27, 2000,
Northeast Utilities, either directly or through its subsidiaries,
filed more than 128 applications with the Commission for various
purposes. Each of the forms specifically inquired whether the
applicant, or any entity with a controlling interest in the
applicant, had ever been convicted of a felony. In each
instance, the applicant responded in the negative.
4. On November 28, 2000, Northeast Utilities Service Company
filed an application on FCC Form 603, seeking Commission consent
to the transfer of control of certain authorizations to another
entity. In that application, it disclosed to the Commission for
the first time that Northeast Utilities had been convicted of the
felonies described above. Northeast Utilities thereafter amended
its previously-filed applications which were still pending in
order, albeit belatedly, to provide information about the
5. The Enforcement Bureau's Investigations and Hearings
Division subsequently conducted an investigation into Northeast
Utilities' failure to properly disclose the company's criminal
background in applications filed with the Commission. In a May
15, 2001, response to a letter of inquiry from the Investigations
and Hearings Division, Northeast Utilities explained:
[Northeast Utilities] answered in the negative
[regarding whether it had ever been convicted of a
felony] as there was a misunderstanding as to the fact
that these were indeed felony convictions. The
[Northeast Utilities] personnel responsible for the
licensing were aware that [Northeast Utilities] plead
``guilty to violations''' but did not understand that
this was classified as a criminal ``felony.'' It was
never [Northeast Utilities'] intent to misrepresent
this conviction and as soon as [Northeast Utilities']
staff became aware of this error, they worked with
counsel and staff at [Northeast Utilities'
communications law firm] to correct all outstanding
applications and to identify the process to attach the
necessary notification to all applications going
6. Notwithstanding Northeast Utilities' disclosure on November
28, 2000, Northeast Utilities Service Company, in August 2001,
filed two additional applications with the Commission. In each
application, Northeast Utilities Service Company responded in the
negative when asked whether it had been convicted of a felony.
7. On November 7, 2001, the Chief, Investigations and Hearings
Division, issued a Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture
(``NAL'') against Northeast Utilities.2 The NAL concluded that
Northeast Utilities had apparently violated Section 1.17 of the
Commission's rules on eight separate occasions within the
applicable statute of limitations.3 The NAL proposed a
forfeiture against Northeast Utilities in the amount of $20,000.
8. On December 4, 2001, Northeast Utilities filed a response to
the NAL (``Response''). Northeast Utilities requests that its
forfeiture liability be reduced from $20,000 ``to $5,000 or
9. Northeast Utilities does not deny that it failed to
timely inform the Commission that it had been convicted of
felonies, in violation of Section 1.17 of the Commission's rules.
However, it maintains that a reduction of the proposed forfeiture
amount is warranted because (a) the NAL overstated the number of
violations for which Northeast Utilities should be held liable;
(b) Northeast Utilities has acted in good faith with the
Commission; it voluntarily disclosed its misconduct; it promptly
took corrective action; and it has a history of compliance before
the Commission; and (c) the proposed NAL amount is
disproportionate to other similarly situated cases.
A. Number of Violations
10. As noted in paragraph 7, above, the NAL found Northeast
Utilities apparently liable for eight violations of Section 1.17,
two of which occurred in August 2001, after the date on which the
company had voluntarily disclosed its misconduct to the
Commission. In its Response, Northeast Utilities states that the
failure to disclose the felony convictions in the two August 2001
applications was purely the result of clerical errors committed
by United Telecom Council (``UTC''), Northeast Utilities'
frequency coordinator. Northeast Utilities explains that it sent
UTC draft copies of the two applications in which Northeast
Utilities affirmatively represented that it had been convicted of
the referenced felonies. However, according to Northeast
Utilities, in the process of manually transferring the data from
the forms into the Commission's Universal Licensing System, UTC
inadvertently keyed into the system that Northeast Utilities had
not been convicted of any felonies. In its Response, Northeast
Utilities provides copies of the two draft applications
disclosing Northeast Utilities' criminal background.
11. We agree with Northeast Utilities that the two August
2001 filings should not be considered rule violations for
purposes of assessing a penalty against Northeast Utilities.
Based on the information before us, Northeast Utilities did not
willfully omit material information in the two applications that
were ultimately filed with the Commission. Although the
applications unquestionably were filed on Northeast Utilities'
behalf, there is no justification in this instance for
attributing the clerical error that UTC committed to Northeast
Utilities. Because the forfeiture amount proposed in the NAL was
based, in part, on the number of violations committed by
Northeast Utilities, we will exclude from consideration the two
August 2001 applications in assessing an appropriate forfeiture
12. Northeast Utilities also argues in its Response that it
should not be held liable for violations relating to three other
applications which initially omitted reference to the felonies,
but were subsequently amended to disclose the criminal
convictions. According to Northeast Utilities, because the
applications were amended prior to grant, the Commission was
ultimately provided with ``the full information necessary to
properly process the applications . . . . ''5 We agree with
Northeast Utilities. In the NAL, we stated that ``[b]y failing
to disclose its criminal background in the various applications,
Northeast Utilities essentially prevented the Commission from
carrying out its statutory obligations contained in Section 309
of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, 47 C.F.R. §
309.''6 By timely amending the three applications, Northeast
Utilities cured its otherwise flawed applications, thereby
enabling the Commission to properly make the public interest
determinations required by Section 309 of the Act. Consequently,
we will exclude these three applications from consideration in
assessing an appropriate forfeiture amount.
B. Good Faith Dealings, Voluntary Disclosure, Corrective
Actions, and History of Compliance
13. Northeast Utilities next seeks a reduction of the
proposed forfeiture amount because, according to the company, all
of its dealings with the Commission have been in good faith; it
voluntarily disclosed its misconduct to the Commission upon
learning of the omissions; it promptly took corrective actions;
and it has a history of compliance before the Commission.7 In
formulating the forfeiture amount proposed in the NAL, we took
into account Northeast Utilities' voluntary disclosure.8 We
agree, however, that a reduction for Northeast Utilities' overall
history of compliance is warranted. No further reduction of
Northeast Utilities' forfeiture liability is warranted because
the company cooperated with the Commission during its
investigation of this matter. During the course of an
investigation into a licensee's compliance with the Commission's
rules, we expect nothing less than full and complete cooperation.
Finally, Northeast Utilities' remedial efforts, while
commendable, are not a mitigating factor and, thus, do not
warrant a reduction of the forfeiture amount.9
14. Based on the foregoing, we agree with Northeast Utilities
that a reduction in the forfeiture amount from that proposed in
the NAL is appropriate. The NAL proposed a forfeiture in the
amount of $20,000. This amount was based, in part, on our
initial view that Northeast Utilities apparently had engaged in
eight actionable violations of Section 1.17 of the Commission's
rules. As noted above, we now believe that Northeast Utilities'
liability should extend to only three such violations. We also
believe a reduction is appropriate for its history of overall
compliance. For the reasons discussed above, we believe no
factors exist beyond those already considered in the NAL for
further reducing the amount of the forfeiture. Based on the
totality of the information before us, we conclude that a
forfeiture in the total amount of $5,500 is appropriate.10
V. ORDERING CLAUSES
15. Accordingly, IT IS ORDERED, pursuant to section 47 U.S.C. §
503(b) and Section 47 C.F.R. §§ 0.111, 0.311, and 1.80, that
Northeast Utilities IS LIABLE FOR A MONETARY FORFEITURE in the
amount of five thousand, five hundred dollars ($5,500) for
willfully and repeatedly violating 47 C.F.R. § 1.17.
16. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED, that payment of this forfeiture shall
be made in the manner provided for in 47 C.F.R. § 1.80 within 30
days of the release of this Forfeiture Order. If the forfeiture
is not paid within the period specified, the case may be referred
to the Department of Justice for collection pursuant to 47 U.S.C.
§ 504(a). Payment may be made to the Commission's Revenue and
Receivables Operations Group by mailing a check or similar
instrument, payable to the order of the Federal Communications
Commission, to the Federal Communications Commission, P.O. Box
73482, Chicago, Illinois 60673-7482. The payment SHALL INCLUDE
the FCC Registration Number and the NAL/Acct. Number referenced
17. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that a copy of this Forfeiture Order
SHALL BE SENT by Certified Mail - Return Receipt Requested to:
Daniel P. Venora, Associate General Counsel, Northeast Utilities
System, 107 Seldon Street, Berlin, CT 06037.
FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION
David H. Solomon
Chief, Enforcement Bureau
1 47 C.F.R. § 1.17.
2 Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture, DA 01-2591
(Invest. and Hear. Div., Enf. Bur., rel. Nov. 7, 2001)
3 47 U.S.C. § 503(b)(6)(B).
4 Response, p. 1.
5 Response, p. 7.
6 NAL, p. 7.
7 Response, pp. 6 - 9.
8 NAL, p. 3.
9 See Palouse Country, Inc., DA 02-03 (Enf. Bur., rel. January
4, 2002), citing, American InfoAge, LLC, 16 FCC Rcd 16185 (Enf.
10 In light of the revised forfeiture amount, Northeast
Utilities' argument relating to the relative amount of the
forfeiture vis-à-vis the $8,000 forfeiture in Curators of the
University of Missouri, 16 FCC Rcd 1174, 1181 (2001), is