Former FirstEnergy CEO defends actions after Ohio firm settles bribery charges

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An American flag waves outside the U.S. Department of Justice Building in Washington, U.S., December 15, 2020. REUTERS/Al Drago

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July 23 (Reuters) - FirstEnergy Corp's (FE.N) former CEO Chuck Jones, who was fired in October in connection with a bribery scandal, on Friday defended his actions at the company, a day after it agreed to pay $230 million to settle U.S. government charges in the case.

The Ohio-based energy company on Thursday admitted it paid millions of dollars to state officials to pursue legislation on nuclear subsidies and other policies that would benefit it. read more

According to a statement sent on his behalf by a spokesman, Jones "did not engage in any unlawful activity" and is "very disappointed that FirstEnergy would falsely implicate so many hard working and dedicated employees in wrongdoing who were committed to implementing the Board's stated goals."

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Officials at FirstEnergy would not comment on Jones' remarks.

Others affected by the scandal include Larry Householder, the former speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives, who was arrested by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation in July 2020, and Samuel Randazzo, who resigned as chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio in November 2020 after the FBI searched his home.

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, who appointed Randazzo in 2019, said in a statement on Thursday: "If ... Sam Randazzo committed acts to improperly benefit FirstEnergy, his motives were not known by me or my staff."

The Ohio nuclear plants - Perry and Davis-Besse - at the center of the scandal are still in service. Those plants are now owned by Energy Harbor, the company created from FirstEnergy Solutions, a bankrupt unit of FirstEnergy, which threatened to close the reactors unless the state provided financial support.

The Ohio Legislature passed a bill in 2019 that would pay Energy Harbor about $1 billion over six years to keep the money-losing reactors in service. The legislature revoked the bill in 2021.

Energy Harbor has said it hopes the federal government would provide some assistance to financially distressed nuclear plants. Congress is considering such bills. read more

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Reporting by Scott DiSavino Editing by Sonya Hepinstall

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