Saturday 22nd Oct 2016

Open letter to Nominet’s top members

What chance for David against the Goliath of Nominet's top 10?


Webfusion Ltd, UK
1&1 Internet AG, Germany LLP, USA
Namesco Ltd, Italy
NetBenefit UK Ltd, Canada
Iomart Hosting Ltd, UK Ltd, UK
Daily Internet Services, UK
Key-Systems GmbH, Germany
Fibranet Services Ltd, Isle of Man

Together, your companies control approximately 70% of Nominet’s turnover.

Last year, your 10 companies determined the outcome of Nominet’s director elections.  All backed Nominet’s preferred candidates. All but one voted in the same pattern, placing Dickie Armour first and Nora Nanayakkara second. On the face of it, this looks like a coordinated action.

2013 Nominet director elections - how top members voted
2013 Nominet director elections – how top members voted

The voting pattern of this small group of commercial interests raises public interest concerns.  There are outstanding allegations that some Nominet directors have breached their fiduciary duties.  In any company, this would be problematic.  In a public interest company, which operates critical national infrastructure, it is of grave concern if a small number of commercial interests can be viewed as shielding serving directors from accountability.

Maria Miller MP’s Department of Culture Media and Sport has refused to get involved in Nominet’s regulation, pointing to the membership as an effective regulator.  Given the block voting system, that means your 10 companies.  What are you doing to ensure that Nominet’s directors are accountable?

It is clear from last year’s director elections that the majority of members who voted supported two candidates (Lucien Taylor and Graeme Wingate) who promised to investigate alleged breaches of duty by serving directors.  The board used company resources to canvass for its chosen candidates (Dickie Armour and Nora Nanayakkara) in more than 5,000 phone calls.

We believe that your companies were involved in meetings with Nominet which were not open to the wider membership prior to last year’s Annual General Meeting. Nominet has failed to confirm whether or not pricing and voting were discussed at these meetings.

Any coordinated action by a small group of dominant commercial interests raises concerns. In this case, it appears to have thwarted the will of the wider membership and protected serving directors from having to answer allegations of breaches of fiduciary duties and potential corruption.

We call on the top 10 members to:

1. Make a public declaration of your company’s commitment to proper accountability mechanisms for Nominet’s directors.

2. Demand a rigorous, transparent and independent investigation into alleged breaches of fiduciary duties by Nominet directors.

3. Confirm whether discussions in top member meetings with Nominet prior to last year’s AGM included pricing and voting in the upcoming director elections?

Your company’s membership of Nominet probably features a long way down your executive agenda.  This is natural and normal.  We are asking you to consider the impact your company can have on the management and governance of an essential element of the UK economy.  Self-regulation and private management of Nominet can have great benefits for many members, but only if the company is seen as a fit and proper guardian of critical economic infrastructure.  That reputation remains at risk whilst evidence of wrongdoing continues to be ignored.

You are the effective regulators of this national resource.  Half of you are based outside the UK.  You are damaging the credibility of self-regulation of this national resource, and I ask you to set aside your private, commercial interests, and hold Nominet’s directors to account.  Do your duty!


Emily Taylor

Oscar O’Connor

Lucien Taylor

7 responses to “Open letter to Nominet’s top members

  1. I sent a similar open letter to Nominet just a few weeks ago outlining my concern, a small part of which I include below (it was a massive emailing covering their plans to use Nominets monopoly to push other services like cyber-assist commercially). I did not ask for specific feedback, but I did get feedback from Simon and Lesley saying they had read and would take my comments on board.


    The main thing that disturbed me with regards to the .UK “consultation” was the lack of proper consultation and lack of evidence to support the claim/need/demand.

    When the consultation responses were reported to the membership:

    – The people who contacted Nominet with written responses appeared overwhelmingly against the specific proposal and largely against the general/overall .UK proposal.

    – The people who consulted with Nominet directly within private meetings did not have to disclose their thoughts.

    – A number of the members with largest proportional votes (and to whom Nominet is most beholden) did not provide written responses but met with Nominet directly and in private.

    This can be interpreted in many different ways, but to me either:

    – Nominet put its own and/or non-members parties interests and views before those of the membership


    – The largest and most aggressive members who were consulted in private (and those Nominet is most beholden to with proportional voting) had very different interests to those of the rest of the membership.

    If the issue was contentious and to all intents the membership was largely against (what was reported), why was a vote never called on the proposal? I’ve heard mentioned there was no clear yes or no in the proposal to vote upon or that it was too complex an issue for consensus to be reached but I feel those are excuses.

    To put it bluntly and in summary, .UK felt like a dictatorship dressed up as democracy, appeasing the largest stage holders and greatest external influences in private with the illusion of choice when it had already been made. An exercise let by marketeers and profiteers, not by technology or for the greater good…

    1. Thanks for your comment, Carl. It certainly is difficult to understand how Nominet could possibly imagine that the written consultation responses gave any mandate to press ahead with Many consultation responses pointed out that British consumers and small businesses will be the losers.

      The winners will be Nominet and its largest customers, who also happen to be its most influential voting block. Why should any of those customers/regulators/owners do anything about alleged breaches of directors’ duties when this current board seems so amenable to helping them achieve their commercial goals?

  2. As a Nominet member, I couldn’t agree more with the points raised in your letter Emily. Sadly, I can’t see anything changing without outside (government/judicial) intervention 🙁 there is too much money at stake and those who currently benefit from it will do everything within their power to keep the status quo.

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