Nominet embroiled in report fixing allegations

Just one week after TechEye revealed a SNAFU with Nominet’s third party auditing – removing .UK domains from the internet without warning,  the organisation has been hit with accusations of disability discrimination and altering independent reports.

The organisation, which is tasked with handling the .UK top level domain, had a crisis among high ranking members. Back in 2009, an independent governance review was underway, in the midst of a ‘domainer’ crisis: members who wanted to register web addresses for profits were scheming to take over the organisation, as the Telegraph points out

TechEye has heard of “lots of shenanigans” behind the scenes. Although publicly, the majority of the board denied they wanted government help, they had asked for assistance. The government’s response at the time was to ask Nominet for an independent governance review.

Our source tells us it was a tense environment at the time, everyone was under a lot of scrutiny, and two directors were extremely hostile, worried about renumeration, for example, not going to Nominet members for the vote.

Two of the directors – Jim Davies and Angus Hanton –  eventually resigned.

Both Davies and Hanton argued that the long term incentive plan would pay out a lot of money to the executives and that members needed to know. Professor Bob Garratt, who authoured the review, also agreed. A person familiar with the matter speculated that if the plan went to a vote there wasn’t a chance it would go through, and some executives could have potentially lost a lot of money.

After a Nominet employee, Emily Taylor raised concerns about the organisation, she allegedly had her email access cut off by Nominet, and was apparently told that it was for her own health. 

In response to the Telegraph’s article, Nominet has published this blog post where it believes the story told is misleading.  Nominet believed that claim made against it was unreasonable and disproportionate, so it felt obliged to contest it, and is pleased that “the tribunal rejected the majority of the complaints” and which the “claimant later conceded were unjustified”.

The post also says that it is not the case that Nominet instigated government intervention, claiming that an ISP and a major British trade body – although it does not say which – had already been in contact with the now disbanded Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR).

Last, it fought against accusations that Nominet influenced the independence of the Garratt report on governance. “It was always the intention that the Board would be involved in helping Professor Garratt – who had no previous knowledge of the sector, or of Nominet – understand the complexities of the sector and Nominet as an organisation,” the post reads.

However, when TechEye approached Nominet spokesperson Phil Spray with the question: Did Nominet seek to alter parts of the report it was unhappy with – as the allegations suggest – we were told it was “not a yes or no question”. Professor Garratt, who Nominet says had no previous knowledge of the sector or of Nominet, “has repeatedly said that the report and the conclusions are his own”.

“The board,” however, “made suggestions to the report and it was up to Garratt if he wanted to take those suggestions”.

TechEye has asked whether these suggestions are available and await a response.