FirstEnergy agrees to $230 million fine

By: 
Staff Writer

Under a deferred prosecution agreement, FirstEnergy Corp. has agreed to pay a $230 million penalty after being charged by federal authorities with conspiring to commit wire fraud.
In court filings last week, FirstEnergy Corp., an Akron, Ohio-based public utility holding company, admits it conspired with public officials and other individuals and entities to pay millions of dollars in exchange for specific official action for the company’s benefit.
FirstEnergy Corp. acknowledged in the agreement that it paid millions of dollars to an elected state official through the official’s alleged 501(c)(4) entity, Generation Now, in return for the official pursuing legislation benefitting FirstEnergy Corp.
The announcement last week by the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Southern District of Ohio doesn’t name the public official but according to court documents, from March 2017 to March 2020, millions of dollars were allegedly funneled to Larry Householder, former Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives and others in exchange for their help in passing House Bill 6. That bill provided funding to help the financially ailing nuclear plants operated by a subsidiary of FirstEnergy.
Householder had entered a not guilty plea to the charges.
The company also acknowledged that it used 501(c)(4) entities, including one it controlled, to further the scheme because it allowed certain FirstEnergy Corp. executives and co-conspirators to conceal from the public the nature, source and control of payments.
FirstEnergy Corp. further acknowledged that it paid $4.3 million dollars to a second public official. In return, the individual acted in their official capacity to further the company’s interests related to passage of nuclear legislation and other company priorities.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, FirstEnergy Corp. has “cooperated substantially with the government,” and according to the deferred prosecution agreement, the company must continue to cooperate fully in all matters related to the company’s conduct described in the agreement and other conduct under investigation.
Within 60 days of last week’s filing, FirstEnergy Corp. must pay $115 million to the federal government and $115 million to the Ohio Development Service Agency’s Percentage of Income Payment Plus Plan, a program that provides assistance to Ohioans in paying their regulated utility bills.
Other terms in the agreement include publicly disclosing on its website any FirstEnergy Corp. contributions to 501(c) (4) entities and entities known by FirstEnergy Corp. to be operating for the benefit of a public official, either directly or indirectly.

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