NTIA chief wants ICANN to restrict post-ICANN employment.
Following up on remarks made during ICANN 63 in Barcelona last week, National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) head David Redl sent a letter to ICANN Friday criticizing people leaving the regulator for industry companies.
Redl first mentioned the concern publicly last week in comments during the meeting. His interest in the subject presumably stems from Donuts hiring Akram Atallah as its new CEO. Atallah led the Global Domains Division at ICANN.
Here’s the text of Redl’s letter to ICANN:
NTIA continues to be a strong supporter of the multistakeholder approach to Internet Governance, including through our participation as the U.S. representative to the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) at the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). Paramount to the success of the multistakeholder approach is trust in the institutions that make decisions about the Internet’s future. While the community has greatly improved ICANN’s accountability through the IANA stewardship transition process, I am writing to raise a concern about an accountability deficit at ICANN.
Recent ICANN senior staff departures have highlighted that ICANN lacks postemployment restrictions. Given that ICANN, through the enforcement of its contracts with domain name registries and registrars, performs an industry self-regulatory function, it is necessary that conflicts of interest or appearance of unethical behavior be minimized. While the United States will recommend this issue be addressed in the third iteration of ICANN’s Accountability and Transparency Review Team (ATRT3), which we expect to have had its initial meeting no later than June 2019, I encourage you to look into this now. One potential fix could be “cooling off periods” for ICANN employees that accept employment with companies involved in ICANN activities and programs. This is an ethical way to ensure that conflicts of interest or appearances of unethical behavior are minimized.
One challenge I foresee is that ICANN sometimes hires people from the industry because of their specialized knowledge. It might be difficult to attract these people if they can’t return to industry companies. ICANN would need to compensate them for the restriction. I also wonder if employment laws in various states and countries would limit the ability to enforce cooling off provisions.