The FCC has fined John M. Burkman, Jacob Alexander Wohl, and J.M. Burkman & Associates LLC $5,134,500 for making what the agency said were 1,141 unlawful robocalls. The FCC rejected the arguments asserted by the parties in their response to the commission’s 2021 proposed fine in this case.

 The robocalls were made on two separate dates — Aug. 26 and Sept. 14, 2020. The robocalls from “Project 1959” told potential voters that if they voted by mail, their “personal information will be part of a public database that will be used by police departments to track down old warrants and be used by credit card companies to collect outstanding debts.”

The defendants had argued that they weren’t responsible for the calls; instead, the dialing companies they hired were.  However, personal emails show Burkman and Wohl directing the dialing companies on specific details of the calling campaigns, including which zip codes to call and pricing related to the robocalling campaign.

The FCC said that for many years that it has looked at the totality of circumstances in determining which party is liable for illegal robocalls.  The defendants each pleaded guilty to one count of telecommunications fraud. In addition to the fine, they were sentenced to community service, which included 500 hours registering voters in minority and low-income communities.

“This penalty emphasizes the seriousness with which we take our obligations to protect American consumers, and in this instance American voters, from being targeted through the clear and illegal misuse of U.S. communications networks,” Loyaan A. Egal, FCC enforcement chief, said in a prepared statement.

“We commend our law enforcement partners for bringing Burkman and Wohl to justice for their actions, and we will continue our efforts to make it clear that there are significant consequences for engaging in this type of conduct.” 

Though the new penalty is significant, it pales in comparison to the nearly $300 million fine proposed last December involving an auto warranty robocall campaign.

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