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
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.