House Republicans Query FCC About Greenhill Volunteer

Three Republican House leaders have written the FCC asking for information on a former member of banking firm Greenhill & Co., who had volunteered services worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to the FCC after his former firm had received a contract to produce incentive auction-related material.

Greenhill produced a slick packet of incentive auction financial information to help broadcasters decide whether to put spectrum up for auction.

According to the letter to the FCC from the trio of legislators, they are concerned about possible conflict of interest given the FCC contract and ties to the "high-profile temporary volunteer."

Sending the letter were full House Energy & Commerce Committee chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee chairman Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.).

“FCC decisions have sweeping impact on the economy well beyond the industries it regulates. We want to be sure that any work done by the commission or on its behalf is for the benefit of the American people. This relationship warrants questions and we look forward to the chairman’s timely response,” they wrote. Among there concerns are that they say the value of the donated services was $300,000 according to an FCC gifts report, which they say is an unprecedented amount.

They want answers by May 13 to why Lawrence Chu, former Greenhill managing director, provided those services. They also want to know about his interaction with the General Counsel's office, are seeking copies of the Greenhill contract, want to know how Chu was selected and much more.

The legislators' concerns were not raised at an FCC oversight hearing Thursday in the House Energy & Commerce Committee's Communications Subcommittee, where FCC chairman Tom Wheeler was grilled over various issues, mostly dealing with FCC processes.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.