Case against AT&T for $16 billion refund for Oklahoma customers dismissed

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Corporation Commission voted to dismiss the largest utility refund in the history of Oklahoma on Wednesday.

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.”

The Corporation Commission issued a notice of hearing, allowing that application to move forward.

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

Today, commissioners voted 2-1 to dismiss the case.

After the meeting, AT&T released the following statement:
“Over the past 25 years this case has been rejected at least six times by either the Supreme Court or the Corporation Commission, including a vote to dismiss by Commissioner Anthony himself in 2003. Today’s order should finally bring it to an end.
"Despite the applicants' continued misstatement of the facts, Southwestern Bell never kept any excess revenues. As required by the Commission over 25 years ago, we invested all of it – about $31 million over three years – in our Oklahoma network, to the benefit of Oklahoma citizens.  Since then, we have continued to invest in our network.  In fact, we invested nearly $825 million in Oklahoma wireless and wired networks from 2013-2015.”
Now, the group who brought the case forward plans to take it to the Supreme Court.