FCC Enforcement Actions for NAL & Fine Defense

FCC Enforcement Actions for NAL & Fine Defense

Maldonado Law represents clients before the FCC in investigations and violation allegations. This includes some instance where resolving the Commission’s findings of a violation and imposition of fines needed to be brought before the Federal District Courts. Most violations and fines can be resolved between the client and the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) Enforcement Bureau or by Commission. A fine or violation finding is known as a Notice of Apparent Liability (NAL) or a Notice of Violation (NOV) for technical violations of broadcasters. Our FCC Defense work includes, but is not limited to:

  • Defense of FCC against carriers, broadcasters, equipment manufacturers, and individuals.
  • Defense of NAL for lack of FCC Part 15 Labeling on LED equipment
  • Defense of NAL for importation of Part 15 certified equipment
  • Defense of NAL for CPNI violations for annual reporting compliance and data breaches.
  • Defense of NAL for E-911 violations for wireless carrier and interconnected VoIP
  • Defense of NAL for failure to file annual FCC 499 reports or pay USF and regulatory fees for successive years.
  • Defense of NAL for failure to obtain FCC 214 Authority prior to offering telecommunication services
  • Defense of NOV for violations on towers and broadcast station equipment at field inspection
  • Defense of NAL for failure by broadcasters to file Children’s Programming, EEO reports and maintain proper public record availability.
  • Defense of NAL for unauthorized use of frequency by VAST networks, mobile operators, near-airport antennas, and earth stations
  • Defense of NAL for unauthorized broadcasts by amateur radio operators and pirate radio stations.
  • Defense of NAL for failure to respond to FCC letter of inquiry
  • Defense of NAL for fraudulent claims of USF Funds by Eligible telecommunication carrier violations (& ancillary criminal action)
  • Defense of NAL for junk faxes
  • Defense of NAL for Marketing disclosures on Prepaid Calling Cards (resolved at U.S. District Court)
  • Negotiation of NAL amount reduction based upon Economic Hardship
  • Findings of no violation by licensee after extensive dialog with the Enforcement Bureau

Defense of FCC Enforcement Actions & Violations

Whether you have an FCC license or not, individuals and businesses can be investigated and fined by the Federal Communication Commission under Communication Act of 1934, as amended (“the Act”). Typically, if you are a licensee, a license applicant or should have been, the matter is within the jurisdiction of the FCC Enforcement Bureau. If the violation involves monies received from one of the four FCC Administered Programs (Connect America Fund, Lifeline Fund, E-Rate Program for Schools & Libraries, or Rural Health Care) the matter may be taken on or referred to the FCC Office of Inspector General for investigation, and possible referral to the FCC Enforcement Bureau or for potential prosecution under the Federal False Claims Act or other criminal statutes.

For FCC licensee facing a violation, the process is called an FCC Enforcement Action. Sometimes these actions concern well known and obvious prohibitions by the FCC committed by well-defined regulated persons or businesses. (For example, a company transmitting a Radio or VSAT transmission without an FCC license, or, under an expired FCC license.) Other times the underpinnings of the alleged violations may not be so clear, and are based upon FCC interpretations of paperwork requirements, public notice records, technical specification on equipment, FCC rules and orders, and can have criminal implications. This can involve questions of not only law, but surrounding facts.

The process usually begins with a notice from the FCC under Letter of Inquiry or “LOI”. The letter carries the legal effect of an administrative subpoena and independent fines can result from failure to timely respond. If the FCC Enforcement Bureau is satisfied from its LOI review that sufficient evidence exists that the party has violated the Act, a Notice of Apparent Liability (or “NAL”) will be issued the party. The NAL will specify the violation, a specific proposed fine amount and rationale as to why, and allow the party to answer or deny the NAL in writing within a thirty-day (30 day) period. Failure to respond will result in an order being issued by the FCC seeking to collect the fine amount.

Maldonado Law’s advocacy begins upon any notice of an FCC Letter of Inquiry (“LOI”) or Notice of Apparent Liability (“NAL”). If engaged for the LOI process, our approach with clients is to first ascertain all facts, preserve documents and records, and coordinate their collection and submission to the FCC in the most expeditious manner possible. Should extensions of time be necessary because of the nature of the claim, the firm requests such time from FCC Bureau staff to enable the FCC and the client to have a full picture of the facts. Should records not be readily available, ongoing disclosures of documents and information is requested. Evidence is likewise reviewed to identify any potential attorney-client privileged work product with prior counsel.

Where and when a Notice of Apparent Liability (“NAL”) has been issued a client, our approach is to provide immediate consultation on how to best resolve the NAL with the client’s goals and interest in mind. There are a number of options, which include but are not limited to:

  • Response to the NAL with a formal answer and legal brief as to its factual and legal basis.
  • Request for consent decree negotiations.
  • Request for treatment as a small business enterprise for a downward departure on the fine or forfeiture.
  • Request for special treatment due to an economic hardship.

Should an Order of Monetary or Equipment Forfeiture be issued, the individual or business, the order may be appealed to the federal courts in Washington DC for review of the agency’s action and the violation. Our firm maintains relations with co-counsel attorneys in Washington DC for such outcomes. Should a resolution be successfully negotiated or determined by the FCC and legal argument, the firm immediately begins a compliance review and plans to prevent further violations.

Formal and Informal Complaints before the Federal Communications Commission

Communication carriers, licensees, broadcasters and businesses can also have both formal and informal complaints filed against them by consumers and affected persons with the FCC. Failure to respond to such complaints can result in Enforcement Bureau NAL(s) or Forfeiture Orders. Carriers, licensees, and broadcasters normally have only a specific time period to resolve the matter through informal mediation or resolve the basis of the claim. FCC work of firm for informal and formal complaints includes:

  • Representation before the FCC in the formal complaint mediation process (complainant and respondent)
  • Representation before the FCC in the formal complaint administrative litigation process (complainant and respondent)
  • Resolution of pending violations of non-responsiveness to informal complaints through direct negotiations with the FCC.
  • Resolution of informal or formal complaints prior to a merger, transfer of control or assignment of assets of an FCC licensed carrier

Unresponsiveness to an FCC NAL, NOV, LOI, or formal or informal complaints can lead to either increased fines or loss of license. Do not disregard it.

Contact Maldonado Law to schedule a confidential initial consultation about any FCC NAL, NOV, LOI you have received, or if you have received a subpoena from the FCC Inspector General and learn about our rates and experience.