Clyburn Demands Documents from Telegram on Company’s Role in Promoting Pandemic Fraud
Washington, D.C. (December 1, 2021) — Today, Rep. James E. Clyburn, Chairman of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, sent a letter to Pavel Durov, Chief Executive Officer of Telegram, Inc. requesting documents and information related to the use of the company’s large social media platform for disseminating information used to commit fraud against pandemic relief programs. The requests follow reports indicating that Telegram may have facilitated fraud against multiple pandemic relief programs, including the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, unemployment insurance, and the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF).
Chairman Clyburn wrote to the company:
“The extensive use of Telegram to discuss and market ways to commit fraud against relief programs—even after news reports have highlighted this fact—raises serious concerns about whether Telegram has undertaken sufficient efforts to prevent its platform from being used to facilitate fraud. Public reports suggest that the company has raised over $1 billion in financing and is growing rapidly in significance, with over 500 million regular users and a possible valuation of over $30 billion. Given the company’s substantial resources, Telegram has the capacity to effectively monitor its platform’s use for committing and promoting illegal activities. Telegram’s growing reach increases the importance that the company act responsibly to prevent its platform from being used for illegal activity.”
Multiple news outlets have reported that Telegram has enabled scammers to commit large-scale fraud against numerous federal and state relief programs through the dissemination of “instructions” and “guides” for submitting fraudulent relief and loan applications. The Department of Justice has prosecuted numerous cases where individuals submitted numerous fraudulent applications for loans or other relief worth millions of dollars, demonstrating the substantial damage caused by the widespread distribution on Telegram of “playbooks” for evading fraud controls.
Chairman Clyburn continued. “I am deeply troubled by reports indicating that Telegram has served as a platform for facilitating fraud against vital pandemic relief programs, including the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, unemployment insurance, and the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF), by allowing extensive dissemination of instructions for evading program fraud controls. … I am writing to request documents and information necessary for the Select Subcommittee to understand how guidance for evading pandemic relief program fraud controls have been disseminated through Telegram’s platform and whether the company has undertaken any serious efforts to prevent its platform from being used to enable large-scale fraud against programs intended to aid Americans harmed by the coronavirus pandemic.”
The Select Subcommittee asked Telegram to provide requested documents by December 15.
The requests to Telegram build on the Select Subcommittee’s ongoing investigations into waste, fraud, and abuse in pandemic relief programs, including investigations into:
Read Chairman Clyburn’s letter to Telegram, Inc.