FirstEnergy agrees to pay $230 mln to settle U.S. bribery charges

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July 22 (Reuters) - FirstEnergy Corp (FE.N) will pay $230 million to settle U.S. government charges it conspired to pay millions of dollars to elected state officials to pursue legislation that would benefit the company, the utility and the Department of Justice said on Thursday.

Ohio-based FirstEnergy admitted it paid millions of dollars to elected state officials so they would pursue nuclear legislation and other policies, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio said in a statement. The company also admitted it conspired with individuals to conceal the source and nature of the payments from the public.

The investigation stems from federal prosecutors' ongoing public corruption prosecutions in Ohio.

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"This is a humbling moment for our company. And we should take this moment to recognize that this type of conduct, at the highest levels in the company, was wrong and unacceptable," FirstEnergy President and CEO Steve Strah said on Thursday.

Shares of FirstEnergy jumped following news of the agreement, surging nearly 6% to a session high of $39.745. Prices were trading up 4% by 10:51 a.m. EDT (1451 GMT).

Half of the penalty will go to the U.S. Treasury Department and the other half to utility customers, Strah said in a statement to employees on Thursday.

U.S. prosecutors agreed to defer prosecution provided FirstEnergy continues to cooperate with the U.S. investigation. Under the three-year agreement, the electric-utility company has agreed to pay the penalty and to the government's filing of a single charge of conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud.

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Reporting by Chris Prentice in Washington and Sahil Shaw in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V and Barbara Lewis

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