“I think the cavalry just arrived,” Department of Defense joins Oklahomans in case for $16 billion refund

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

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

OKLAHOMA CITY – A recent filing by the U.S. Department of Defense shows that the DOD and Federal Executive Agencies are prepared to participate in a case involving a telephone company and Oklahoma customers.

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.

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

On Friday, an attorney for the U.S. Army Legal Services Agency filed an entry of appearance on behalf of the U.S. Department of Defense and all other Federal Executive Agencies in the case. Should the need arise, the filing proves that the agencies are prepared to participate in the case.

“The Applicants have presented compelling evidence of intrinsic fraud utilized by Southwestern Bell Telephone Company to obtain certain orders and judgments of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, to include Order No. 341630. DOD/FEA was affirmatively injured through the aforementioned criminal activity. To date, such injury has yet to be remedied. In the event of a refund of excess revenues by Southwestern Bell and/or its successor(s). DOD/FEA should receive its proportionate share of the recovery.”

Originally, the U.S. Department of Defense and the Federal Executive Agencies were parties to the original rate case, advocating for a refund to ratepayers.

Tinker Air Force Base, Ft. Sill, the IRS, the Social Security Administration, the FAA, the National Weather Service and the Department of Veterans Affairs all had landlines with Southwestern Bell during the 1980s.

“I think the cavalry just arrived,” said Dick Burpee, an applicant in the case and former commanding general of Tinker Air Force Base. “I look forward to seeing what kind of artillery they brought with them.”