ZTE hires ex Department of Commerce official as Washington representative

Alan Burkitt-Gray
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Former lawyer at the DoC’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration becomes ZTE government affairs chief

ZTE has hired a former official with the US Department of Commerce (DoC) to manage all its US government relations and public policy matters.

Angela Simpson, who will remain based in Washington DC, was deputy assistant secretary at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), the unit of the DoC that advises the White House on telecoms.

It was the DoC that last year put ZTE on a list of banned companies after uncovering a plot to export goods to Iran via a number of shadow companies – goods that illegally included US-produced hardware and software.

As a result ZTE had to pay a $661 million fine, plus a $430 million forfeiture and a civil penalty of $100 million. The final $300 million was suspended for seven years, dependent of ZTE’s continued good behaviour.

Simpson was a senior official at the DoC, holding the roles as acting chief of staff and senior advisor to the office of the assistant secretary in addition to her NTIA role.

“Angela Simpson’s policy experience and knowledge of the technology industry make her an excellent choice to lead US Government Affairs for ZTE USA,” said Lixin Cheng, chairman of ZTE USA. “We are excited to have her join us as we continue to invest in local partnerships that will help us deliver innovative products and expand our presence in the US.”

ZTE – like its Chinese rival Huawei – is still not allowed to sell network equipment and software to major US carriers for use in the US, but both sell handsets and enterprise equipment. Huawei also has extensive kit in AT&T’s Mexico 4G mobile network.

Simpson joined the NTIA in 2009. Until 2008 Simpson was director of government affairs for Covad Communications in Washington. She was earlier a lawyer with Squire Sanders and Dempsey, which was one of the elements in today’s law firm Squire Patton Boggs.

ZTE said that in her new role she “will be responsible for establishing and executing public policy and government relations objectives, managing a team of consultants, and working closely with senior management, industry associations, and business partners. The role will also involve various legislative and regulatory initiatives and advocating before federal agencies and Congressional offices about public policy issues potentially impacting the company.”