Inquiry Into Certain Allegations Concerning the Chairman of the Federal Maritime Commission

Gao ID: CED-80-25 November 9, 1979

Several Senators requested an inquiry into allegations contained in two newspaper articles concerning the Chairman of the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) to determine if the allegations raised substantial questions relating to the oversight responsibilities of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. The seven allegations in the articles were: (1) that the Chairman pursued his own policies with little regard for agency regulations; (2) that the telephones of top FMC officials were tapped and their desks had been rifled; (3) that the Chairman's personal counsel had received special treatment in her appointment to the job; (4) that the Chairman acted with impropriety in a quasi-judicial case; (5) that the Chairman repeatedly shrugged off warnings by his top advisors about ex parte contacts; (6) that, on occasion, the Chairman wanted to consult with an industry lawyer and personal friend before deciding a particular case before the FMC, that he personally intervened in an application for certification of a ship, and that the payment terms of a penalty imposed on a firm represented by a personal friend were unusually benevolent; and (7) that a firm made an astonishing request that the Chairman intervene in a case involving an application of a competitor.

No evidence was found indicating that the Committee should further investigate allegations 2, 3, 4, 5, and portions of 6. On the other hand, the Committee may wish to consider how policies and decisions are made within the FMC, which is the subject of allegations 1, 7, and a portion of 6. Although no evidence was found of specific improprieties on the part of the Chairman, it appeared that he may not have been taking sufficient care to assure that his actions did not give the appearance of impropriety. Accordingly, the Committee may want to bring to the Chairman's attention the need to avoid even the appearance of improper action.

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