“Fearless” and “bold” are among the words that have been used to describe Travis LeBlanc. They’re traits he’s readily demonstrated as chief of the Bureau of Enforcement at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
Since taking the FCC post in March 2014, LeBlanc has gone after the likes of AT&T, ESPN, Marriott, PayPal, T-Mobile, Verizon and Viacom. Under LeBlanc’s watch, the FCC, in conjunction with other federal agencies, garnered more than $365 million in fines, settlements and refunds for consumers during his first year on the job, according to National Journal.
LeBlanc will deliver a keynote speech Feb. 18 at DMA’s Washington Nonprofit Conference.
In a relatively short period, the FCC’s “$365 Million Man,” as National Journal calls LeBlanc, has delighted consumer advocates and riled industry backers.
Among LeBlanc’s most vocal critics are several Republican lawmakers who are questioning the FCC’s recent spate of aggressive enforcement actions and are demanding a federal investigation into the FCC’s enforcement arm.
On the flip side, LeBlanc does have friends in D.C. They include a pro-consumer group known as Public Knowledge. In June 2015, Public Knowledge applauded the FCC’s $100 million fine against AT&T for misleading consumers about its unlimited data plans.
Harold Feld, senior vice president of Public Knowledge, praises LeBlanc and FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler for working hard “to regain the public trust that the FCC stands with consumers. For too long, carriers have laughed at the FCC’s consumer protection regulations and viewed the occasional fine as a cost of doing business.”
To be sure, it’s not business as usual at the FCC’s enforcement bureau.
What sets LeBlanc apart from his predecessors at the FCC is that he’s not an FCC veteran. Rather, he’s a former prosecutor. Before joining the FCC, LeBlanc was a special assistant attorney general in California; in that role, he oversaw legal action involving sectors including telecom, cybersecurity and intellectual property. He set up California’s first units dealing with high-tech crime and privacy enforcement. In California, he pressured Google, Apple, Facebook and other tech giants to agree to privacy standards for mobile apps, National Journal says.
Given his prosecutorial chops, National Journal notes that LeBlanc “has little interest in playing nice” at the FCC.
“He is a savvy prosecutor who also knows how to secure agreements with private companies in order to advance the public mission,” says Wheeler, the FCC chairman.
LeBlanc’s arrival at the FCC represents a return to Washington, D.C. Before heading to California, he was an executive-branch attorney at the U.S. Justice Department. The Justice Department gig followed stints at D.C. law firm Williams & Connolly LLP and San Francisco law firm Keker & Van Nest, where his specialties included white-collar criminal defense and complex civil litigation. He also had been an appellate lawyer representative at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
LeBlanc’s academic background is equally impressive as his professional career. He holds degrees from Princeton University, Harvard University and the University of Cambridge.
This article is brought to you by the DMA. Nonprofit Federation Conference takes place Feb. 18-19, 2016, in Washington, D.C.