Wapakoneta Daily News

First Energy will pay $230 million


CINCINNATI (AP) — The energy giant at the center of a

$60 million bribery scheme in Ohio admitted to riveting new details of its role in the conspiracy Thursday as part of a settlement agreement with federal prosecutor­s, including

how it used secret dark money groups to fund the effort and

paid a soon-to-be top utility regulator to write the legislatio­n it got in exchange.

Akron-based Firstenerg­y Corp. is charged with conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud through bribery or kickbacks under the deal, Acting U.S. Attorney Vipal J. Patel

said at a press conference Thursday.

He called the settlement, which requires the company to pay $230 million penalty and

continue to fully cooperate with investigat­ors, the largest

secured by his office that anyone can recall.

“If Firstenerg­y complies with everything on its end, the

charges will be dismissed,” Patel said, adding that if they don’t, the criminal case will resume.

Under the agreement, the firm must also make public any new payments it’s aware of that were intended to influence a public official and continue an internal makeover of

its ethics practices. The company will have three years to comply with the settlement.

In a statement, Donald Misheff, Firstenerg­y’s nonexecuti­ve board chairman, said the agreement builds on steps the company already has under way, including to “significan­tly modify our approach to political engagement as we work to regain the trust of our stakeholde­rs.”

The criminal monetary fine of $230 million will be divided up, with half of it going to the federal government and the

other half going to a program that benefits Ohio’s regulated

utility customers, Patel said. Firstenerg­y also has to forfeit

certain funds, totaling $6 million, seized from the accounts

of a dark money group, Partners

for Progress.

FBI Special Agent in Charge Chris Hoffman said the charges resulted from a historic public corruption investigat­ion that “deserves historic remedies.”

“I hope that today’s announceme­nt serves as a stern warning to other corporatio­ns

and corporate executives who would sell their integrity to a

public official, a group of public officials,” he said.

The settlement does not preclude prosecutor­s from pursuing individual­s and applies only to Firstenerg­y, Patel said.

The deal, signed by Firstenerg­y President and CEO Steven Strah, comes in a scandal that has affected business and politics across Ohio since the arrests a year ago Wednesday

of then-ohio House Speaker Larry Householde­r and four associates. The government

says Householde­r orchestrat­ed a plan to accept corporate

money for personal and political use in exchange for passing nuclear bailout legislatio­n and

scuttling an effort to repeal the bill.

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