MTN seeks help of U.S. ex-attorney general over N780 billion fine
INDICATIONS emerged yesterday that in its bid to find a lasting solution that could turn things around over the N1.04 trillion fine hanging on its neck, embattled telecommunications firm, MTN, has hired former United States of America’s Attorney-General, Eric Holder, to help it challenge the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) on the issue.
This development is coming after MTN sought an out-of-court settlement with the NCC on the fine, which has been slashed to N780 billion.
According to Financial Times, Holder visited Nigeria, precisely Abuja in January to plead with top government officials on behalf of MTN.
“His experience as attorney-general in dealing with a lot of corporate problems was interesting to MTN,” the publication quoted a source close to the negotiations as saying.“The company hoped Holder’s experience and stature could inject some balance into the equation.”
As US attorney general between 2009 and 2015, Holder was said to have presided over the biggest corporate settlements in US history.
These included the $13 billion that JPMorgan Chase paid over the sale of mortgage-backed securities before the financial crisis, and BP’s $18 billion fine for the Horizon oil spill.
Financial Times disclosed that a top government official who is aware of the deal with Holder, expressed dissatisfaction, saying: “Why would Eric Holder change anything? It looks a little desperate, like they couldn’t find anyone with proximity who is able to influence the president.”
The publication said MTN declined to comment on the allegations of hiring Holder.The telecommunications operator resorted to legal option after losing in the bid to make the government soft pedal on the sanction.
However, following the request for out-of-court settlement, Mohammed Idris, a judge of the federal high court in Lagos, adjourned the matter till March 18, with analysts saying there is a high possibility of the two parties reaching a decision before then.
Meanwhile, an official of MTN Nigeria, who spoke on the condition of anonymity with The Guardian, said he cannot confirm or deny any of such detail, “but nothing is impossible when you are looking for something.”