FirstEnergy: Ohio regulator’s firm got USD4M consulting fee

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Fired former FirstEnergy executives improperly paid a firm tied to a future Ohio utility regulator about USD4 million early last year to terminate “a purported consulting agreement” that had been in place since 2013, one of the United States (US)’s largest electric utilities told federal regulators on Thursday.

Public Utilities Commission of Ohio Chairman Sam Randazzo was not mentioned by name in the company’s tardy quarterly report with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

However, Randazzo fits the description of someone who “subsequently was appointed to a full-time role as an Ohio government official directly involved in regulating” FirstEnergy.

Randazzo was appointed chairman by Republican Ohio Governor Mike DeWine on
February 4, 2019.

FBI agents searched Randazzo’s Columbus home on Monday. The agency has declined to comment on what they are investigating.

The FirstEnergy filing said certain former members of its senior management violated the company’s policies and code of conduct in relation to the payment.

Five top executives, including CEO Chuck Jones, have been fired in the past month. “At this time, it has not been determined if the payments were for the purposes represented within the consulting agreement,” the filing said.

Messages were left with Randazzo and a Public Utilities Commission spokesman seeking comment.

FirstEnergy spokesperson Jennifer Young in a statement on Thursday night said the company takes violations of its policies and code of conduct “very seriously”. Jones and the other executives were fired after an internal investigation by the company’s board of directors.

“The board will continue to take decisive action to address this matter and ensure we have effective processes and procedures in place to uphold our standards and values going forward,” Young’s statement said.

FirstEnergy said the payment was discovered as part of the company’s internal investigation into allegations against it in a USD60 million federal bribery investigation in which former House Speaker Larry Householder is the chief target.