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Case against AT&T for $16 billion refund for Oklahoma customers takes step forward

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American dollars, Photo: tOrange.us / CC BY-SA 4.0

OKLAHOMA CITY – It would be the largest utility refund in the history of Oklahoma.

A group of citizens filed an application with the Corporation Commission, saying that $16 billion is due to customers who had Southwestern Bell telephone numbers dating back to the late 1980s.

The application stems from a Corporation Commission decision back in 1989 that let Southwestern Bell reinvest extra money after the feds lowered income tax rates for corporations.

The decision let them reinvest an extra $30 million in the network in Oklahoma rather than give it back to customers.

But, in 1995, Commissioner Bob Hopkins was found guilty of accepting a bribe of $15,000 from the attorney for the phone company in exchange for his vote to let Southwestern Bell reinvest the money.

“I’m not saying Southwestern Bell’s conduct here was as bad as Enron, Tyco International, Bernie Madoff or WorldCom,”  Andrew Waldron, an attorney for the applicants seeking payment, told NewsChannel 4 in November. “It was worse. I’m here telling you that, if Southwestern Bell’s fraud and corruption had run any deeper, it would take a donkey ride to get to the bottom of it.”

On Thursday, the Corporation Commission issued a notice of hearing, allowing that application to move forward.

AT&T and the attorney general have filed objections to the scheduled hearing.

Now, a date will have to be set for the hearing before an administrative law judge. From there, the judge will determine a schedule for the case to proceed.