Ohio adds FirstEnergy ex-CEO to racketeering lawsuit

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The Davis-Beese nuclear power station is seen near Oak Harbor, Ohio. REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk

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(Reuters) - The attorney general of Ohio on Thursday moved to add new defendants to his state lawsuit against FirstEnergy Corp, including the company's ex-chief executive Charles Jones who was fired last year in connection with a bribery scandal at the center of the legal case.

Ohio's Attorney General Dave Yost asked the Court of Common Pleas for Franklin County to allow him to amend his complaint with new claims that Jones, ex-FirstEnergy senior vice president Michael Dowling and former Public Utility Commission of Ohio Chairman Sam Randazzo engaged in extortion and money laundering through their involvement in a corrupt enterprise to pass a law intended to bail out two financially troubled nuclear power plants.

Jones, Dowling and Randazzo could not be reached for comments.

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"This is the justice system working, holding bad actors accountable," Yost said in a statement.

FirstEnergy agreed last month to pay $230 million as a penalty to resolve a criminal investigation launched by the U.S. Attorney's Office. Under the three-year deferred prosecution agreement, the electric-utility company also agreed to a charge of conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud.

FirstEnergy also admitted it paid millions of dollars in bribes to elected state officials.

Yost said that the three men "were significant players" in the complaint's claims that former Ohio House speaker Larry Householder took $60 million in bribes that FirstEnergy and its subsidiaries shelled out to bolster his campaign for the speakership in exchange for securing passage of House Bill 6, which authorized surcharges on all Ohioans' energy bills to subsidize the struggling Davis-Besse and Perry Nuclear power plants.

Jones last month said in a statement that he "did not engage in any unlawful activity."

Jennifer Young, a spokesperson for Akron, Ohio-based FirstEnergy declined to comment on the lawsuit. Energy Harbor, the successor in interest to the FirstEnergy subsidiary that operated the facilities, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Public Utility Commission of Ohio spokesperson Brittany Waugaman said that it generally does not comment on pending litigation.

The amended complaint's claims include allegations that the defendants engaged in a pattern of corrupt activity, seeks civil damages for criminal acts and damages for reputable harm.

It also seeks to recover from Randazzo a $4.3 million bribe FirstEnergy admitted paying him, Yost's office said.

The case is State of Ohio v. FirstEnergy Corp. et al., Court of Common Pleas for the Franklin County, No. 20-cv-6281.

For State of Ohio: Charles Miller, Office of the Attorney General of Ohio

For FirstEnergy Corp et al.: Robert Krapenc of Robert F. Krapenc and Jacob Roth of Jones Day

Read more:

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

Former FirstEnergy CEO defends actions after Ohio firm settles bribery charges

Ohio AG, FirstEnergy agree to end $102 mln surcharge in nuclear bailout scandal

Ratepayer files class action suit against FirstEnergy amid nuclear plant bailout scandal

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