President Joe Biden’s nominee to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Gigi Sohn, cut a favorable deal with broadcasters shortly after she was nominated to the regulatory agency.
Sohn previously worked as a director of Locast, a streaming service that transmitted local television broadcasts on the internet. The company was shut down in October 2021 after broadcasters sued and a judge ruled the service was in violation of copyright law. Locast entered into a settlement agreement with broadcasters requiring the service to pay $32 million in damages.
Biden nominated Sohn to an empty commissioner position at the FCC, which is tasked with regulating the broadcast industry, in late October; however, one day after she was nominated, Sohn signed a confidential agreement with broadcasters cutting the amount of damages Locast would pay to around $700,000, according to a copy of the agreement seen by Bloomberg Law.
The agreement also released Sohn and other enjoined parties in the lawsuit from liability, Bloomberg Law reported.
“She was negotiating and/or executing a settlement agreement with regulated entities while an FCC nominee,” a former FCC official told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “There are some serious questions and appearances of impropriety here.”
Sohn’s involvement with Locast was the subject of several questions from lawmakers during her nomination hearing, including those from Republican Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker, the ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee; however, the confidential agreement between Locast and broadcasters was not addressed in Sohn’s hearing. When asked where the money came from “for the payment of the $32 million settlement in connection with the Locast case,” Sohn did not correct Wicker in her written responses to reflect the current amount owed.
After obtaining a copy of the confidential settlement agreement, Wicker demanded a second hearing on Jan. 18 to address Sohn’s “future financial liability to a number of companies regulated by the FCC” and clear up any ethical doubt, Politico reported.
Wicker’s request for a second hearing on Sohn’s nomination results from the discrepancies between Sohn’s testimony during her December 2021 hearing and the details of her Locast settlement, according to a Senate aide familiar with the matter.
Sohn has also reportedly been negotiating a recusal deal with Senate Commerce Democrats that would attempt to avoid thorny issues, according to Fox Business. These negotiations have not been made public.
It is not clear whether Sohn’s involvement in the agreement will affect her nomination; Democratic Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell, who chairs the Senate Commerce Committee, did not respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
Sohn did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.