ICANN kicks the can on .web yet again
Did Verisign cheat when it bought .web for $135 million in 2016? ICANN will make its mind up one day, but not today.
The ICANN board of directors has asked the three parties in the contested new gTLD auction for an info dump, so it can decide, presumably before the end of the year, whether to bar the top two bids for breaking the rules.
The Board Accountability Mechanisms Committee has written to Verisign, Nu Dot Co (the proxy Verisign used to hide its bid) and Afilias (aka Altanovo, the second-place bidder) to ask them to condense their last six years of claims and counter-claims into two 75-page documents.
Afilias reckons Verisign and NDC broke the rules by not disclosing that the former was secretly bankrolling the latter’s winning bid. It wants the bid invalidated, allowing Afilias to take over .web for a cheaper price.
Verisign has counter-claimed that Afilias should be disqualified for allegedly privately communicating with NDC during a pre-auction comms blackout period. It’s published screenshots of text messages it says prove this took place.
The Independent Review Process complaint against ICANN technically resulted in a win for Afilias, with the IRP panel ruling that ICANN broke its bylaws by not making a decision on Verisign’s alleged rule-breaking back in 2016.
That decision was reached in December, and ICANN has been faffing around pointedly not making a decision ever since.
Now, BAMC wants the parties to present their final pleadings in this ongoing drama.
It wants both side to “provide a comprehensive written summary of their claims and the materials supporting their claims” in order “to ensure that the BAMC is reviewing a complete picture of the parties’ positions”.
I don’t think there’s anything untoward about this — BAMC is basically just doing what the IRP panel told it to, albeit it in a roundabout way — but it is a little surprising that it thinks there isn’t enough information about their complaints in the public domain already.
As well as three years of legal filings, there are extensive transcripts of seven days of hearings that took place in 2020. ICANN will have access to the unredacted versions, too, which include details of the Verisign-NDC deal that the rest of us aren’t allowed to look at.
Maybe there’s just too much information to wade through.
Under the BAMC’s new process, the parties have until July 15 to present their cases, then another month to rebut their opponents with a further 30-page document.
Assuming the subsequent decision proceeds at ICANN Speed (which is to say, glacial) I don’t think we can reasonably expect a decision before the fourth quarter.
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