Dengate Thrush, a 55-year-old intellectual property lawyer from New Zealand, had served as an ICANN director since 2005 and took over as chairman in November 2007. He said he was approached by Top Level Domain Holdings on June 24, the day his term as chairman ended.
Negotiations proceeded “very rapidly,’’ and he signed a contract July 15, he said. In a July 17 statement, the company announced his hiring as executive chairman and said Dengate Thrush would be an “outstanding asset.’’
“Peter championed successfully the approval of the new gTLD programme at the highest levels, and with Peter on board I have every confidence we will achieve the same success,’’ said Antony Van Couvering, chief executive of TLDH, said in the statement.
Craig Schwartz, a former ICANN employee, last month joined the Financial Services Roundtable, a Washington-based lobbying group whose members include Bank of America and J.P. Morgan Chase.
Schwartz, who was chief gTLD registry liaison at ICANN, said he accepted a job offer from the Roundtable in May and stayed through ICANN’s June 20 vote. He left ICANN June 30 and started his new job July 11.
The business group is considering creating a vehicle with the Washington-based American Bankers Association to acquire top-level domains such as dot-bank and dot-insure for use by financial institutions, said Leigh Williams, president of technology policy for the Roundtable.
“The financial community will benefit greatly from Craig’s firsthand knowledge of ICANN’s domain program,’’ Williams said in a July 11 statement announcing Schwartz’s hiring and noting his involvement in the domain-name expansion.
Schwartz said he’s not aware of any restrictions for departing ICANN staff and declined to disclose his compensation at ICANN and at the Financial Services Roundtable.
ICANN bylaws and policies
ICANN’s bylaws state that no directors “shall vote on any matter in which he or she has a material and direct financial interest that would be affected by the outcome of the vote.’’
“There’s been no evidence supplied to me or the board to show’’ that Dengate Thrush “violated our conflicts of interest policy,’’ said Jeffrey, ICANN’s general counsel. “Should such information be made available, that would considered.’’
The governance committee of ICANN’s board has been looking at whether “post-service’’ policies are needed, he said.
Dengate Thrush declined to disclose his compensation at Top Level Domain Holdings. As chairman of ICANN, he received an annual salary of $75,000 a year starting Aug. 5, Jeffrey said.
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the Commerce Department agency that oversees the ICANN contract, is reviewing public comments on whether the terms should be amended. The contract expires in March, and NTIA plans to open it for bidding in the fall.
“The conflict of interest issue was raised to NTIA in public comments’’ on the coming contract, Assistant Secretary of Commerce Lawrence Strickling, who advises President Obama on telecommunications policy, said in an e-mail. “Based on that input, we will consider whether the contract should contain additional provisions to guard against conflicts of interest by whomever is chosen to perform the work.’’
Federal employees may be subject to restrictions on their activity once they leave government, according to the U.S. Office of Government Ethics. The limits range from a lifetime lobbying ban to a one-year “cooling-off period,’’ temporarily barring communication with the worker’s former agency.
“Since ICANN is operating as a quasi-governmental agency, the revolving-door restrictions ought to apply, but they just don’t in this case and that’s just very unfortunate,’’ Craig Holman, legislative representative for Public Citizen, a Washington consumer advocacy group.
Rogan Kersh, an associate dean at New York University’s Wagner School who does research on lobbying, said the ICANN departures created “the perception of questionable behavior.’’
“The fact that they have the power to reshape the Internet so extensively, a vital aspect of our social and economic existence,” Kersh said, “suggests there should be heightened ethical scrutiny for the acts they perform.’’