Quintillion, a relatively new company in the wild-wild world of fiber-optic telecommunication business in Alaska, was in the news this week.
Like telecommunications itself, it was complicated. The news involved lots of money, the FCC, Congress, the Russians, and Robert Mueller.
A congressman from Illinois sent a letter to the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, asking questions about the appointment to a federal advisory body of the former Alaska CEO of Quintillion, who is now under Department of Justice investigation. Elizabeth Ann Pierce served on the FCC’s Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee.
Pierce abruptly resigned months later after being charged by the Justice Department for fraud involving how she persuaded investors to plow large amounts of money into Quintillion.
In her role as CEO of Quintillion Networks LLC, Pierce was building an undersea fiber optic telecommunication network under the Arctic Ocean, which was eventually to link Asia and Europe, across the top of North America. She acquired investors, some of them Alaska Native Corporations.
In April of 2017, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai appointed Pierce be the chair of the committee that advises the FCC on the deployment of high-speed internet access.
A year later, on April 12, 2018, Pierce was arrested for wire fraud. According to the Justice Department, between May and July of 2017, Pierce “engaged in a scheme to induce two investment companies to invest more than $250 million in the Fiber Optic System by providing them with forged broadband capacity sales contracts.”
A customer of Quintillion’s began questioning invoices and contracts they thought were forged by Pierce in April 2017.
According to the Justice Department’s complaint, on July of 2017, Pierce deleted the forged contracts from her Google account. Soon, she resigned from Quintillion, and the following month, resigned from the FCC committee.
Now, partisan politics has entered the fray. Rep. Keith Ellison, a Democrat from Illinois with ties to Louis Farrakhan, asked the FCC to explain the timing of the events more clearly.
“But if the allegations are true, it appears that Ms. Pierce may have been engaging in fraudulent behavior related to her own telecommunications company at the same time she was chosen by you to lead— and was leading — an important FCC committee. This is deeply troubling, raising questions about the process by which members of the committee were chosen, its deliberations, and its recommendations to the FCC commissioners,” Ellison said.
A key question he is asking is who recommended her to the committee because that would involve political connections.
MUELLER GOES AFTER BLAVATNIK
Meanwhile, the investigation into Donald Trump’s Russia connections has also put its glove on Quintillion’s universe.
Quintillion investor Leonard Blavatnik, who holds dual U.S. and British passports, but who is originally Ukranian, donated funds to the inaugural committee last year. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is especially interested in any donors with ties to Russia, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar.
Blavatnik was raised in Moscow, and emigrated to the U.S. in 1978. He made his wealth selling his stake in a Russian oil company for $7 billion. He owns Warner Music and Access Industries, and also is behind Cooper Investments, a private equity fund in New York, which owns Quintillion through a series of intermediate trust funds and Delaware holding companies.
Len Blavatnik was one of the wealthiest donors to President Obama and also contributed to Mitt Romney. He has given tens of millions to Harvard, Yale and Oxford universities.
Between 2015-2016, he donated $7.35 million to six Republican political candidates, including South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Arizona Senator John McCain, according to Wikipedia. He also gave over $1 million to an anti-Donald Trump GOP group, but another $1 million to the committee for the inauguration of Donald Trump.
He and his wife donated to the Democratic Party in equal measure, and candidates Kamala Harris, Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton. His money, it appears, always flows toward perceived power.