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Communications Daily

Cal. consumer watchdog group that last Dec. sued to oust PUC Comr. Henry Duque for investing in Nextel mobile phone stock, has raised questions about some of his other investments.

Santa Monica-based Foundation for Taxpayer & Consumer Rights said Duque invested in 5 cable and satellite companies with varying degrees of affiliation to PUC-regulated utilities, and in an energy trust that sells natural gas to Duke Energy, one of larger Cal. electric suppliers.

Group said latter investment was particularly worrisome because PUC has authority over energy prices.

Duque sold his holdings in all cited companies last fall except for in DSL network equipment maker Paradyne and telecom network software developer Vertel, which Duque still held at year- end. Foundation said conflict existed because both companies sold goods to PUC– regulated carriers.

Duque’s attorney Joseph Remcho said Nextel wireless investment was “oversight” but dismissed latest complaints about other investments as unfounded and “silly.”

Foundation said PUC should reverse its decision to pay Duque’s legal fees to fight ouster lawsuit.

Another watchdog group, Utility Consumers Action Network, said flap over Duque’s investments showed Cal. conflict law needed to be changed to bar commissioners in future from any investment in industry they regulated, even if specific company wasn’t subject to PUC regulation, because nearly all players in telecom had actual or potential affiliation ties to each other.

Consumer Watchdog
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