Two weeks after seeking an out-of-court settlement in its suit against the N1.04 trillion fine imposed by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), MTN has hired Eric Holder, former US attorney-general, to intervene on its behalf.
MTN attracted the penalty for failing to disconnect 5.2 million unregistered lines. According to Financial Times, Holder visited Abuja in January to plead with top government officials. “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 Mr 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 $13bn that JPMorgan Chase paid over the sale of mortgage-backed securities before the financial crisis, and BP’s $18bn fine for the Horizon oil spill. Financial Times said a top government official who 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 telco 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. The federal government reduced the fine to N780 billion and insisted on payment by December 31, 2015.