AG: 'We Will Take Any Action Within Our Power To Right Past Wrongs'

ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) – New York State officials plan to investigate whether there was any wrongdoing by the non-profit organization that purchased the naming rights of the World Trade Center in 1986.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered an investigation into the World Trade Center Association’s acquisition of the rights to the “World Trade Center” name for just $10 following reports last week that the group has made tens of millions of dollars through licensing deals.

A report in the Bergen Record found that the Port Authority pays $10,000 a year to use the World Trade Center name.

On Wednesday, Gov. Cuomo referred the investigation to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office.

Recent reports said former Port Authority executive Guy Tozzoli created the WTCA in 1986 and secured exclusive rights to the World Trade Center name for $10.

The non-profit got the naming rights without the approval of the Port Authority’s board or executive director, according to the governor’s office. The WTCA then registered the “World Trade Center” name with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.

Tozzoli left the Port Authority a few months after the naming rights were secured to become president of the WTCA, the governor’s office said.

As a result of the huge profits brought in through the naming rights, the governor’s office said Tozzoli made millions of dollars in compensation.

“The World Trade Center has become a public symbol of our city, state and nation, and it is troubling that an organization has made millions of dollars off the sale of what in essence belongs to the public,” Gov. Cuomo said. “The fact that the rights to the World Trade Center name were obtained from the taxpayers for no meaningful compensation and without the Port Authority’s consideration and approval – yet have yielded such great profits in the years since – raises many questions. Therefore, I have referred this matter to Attorney General Schneiderman so we can get to the bottom of this issue and, if appropriate, seek to recoup the value of the World Trade Center name for New Yorkers.”

The governor has asked the AG to determine whether the WTCA properly acquired sole rights to the World Trade Center name.

“We plan to thoroughly review the facts in this troubling history to determine whether rights to the ‘World Trade Center’ name were improperly acquired and whether individuals unlawfully benefited as a result. We will take any action within our power to right past wrongs,” said Schneiderman.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie also criticized the deal.

At Wednesday’s Port Authority board meeting in New York, executive director Patrick Foye called the rights sale a “shameful episode” and vowed to cooperate with any investigations.

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