FirstEnergy Agrees to Pay $230M in Ohio Bribery Settlement

Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp. has agreed to pay $230 million to avoid a federal wire fraud conspiracy charge, admitting it conspired to pay millions to former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder’s political nonprofit in exchange for him promoting nuclear energy legislation in the Buckeye State.

FirstEnergyPhoto Credit: Shutterstock

The deferred settlement agreement was announced by the U.S. Department of Justice, which said  that FirstEnergy funneled the money into the Householder-affiliated nonprofit in an effort to conceal the payments and pursue state legislation that would benefit the electric company personally. Householder is currently awaiting trial for allegedly taking money in exchange for passing a bailout for nuclear interests in the state.

The agreement requires the company to pay a $230 million penalty, make public any payments intended to influence a public official, and continue an internal makeover of its ethics and compliance practices. In exchange, the government will end its criminal prosecution of the company. The deal will be executed in 30 days from the date all conditions are met.

Thursday’s deal also requires FirstEnergy to issue a public statement acknowledging the role of “dark money groups”, also known as 501(c)(4) corporations, in the conspiracy. The statement says the company used them “as a mechanism to conceal payments for the benefit of public officials and in return for official action.”

As part of the settlement, the energy giant also admitted to paying $4.3 million to Samuel Randazzo, the former chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, through his consulting company. Randazzo resigned in November amid the nuclear bribery scandal after FBI agents searched his Columbus home and FirstEnergy revealed the payment to end a consulting agreement with his company.

The statement describes in detail the actions taken by former President & CEO Chuck Jones, Randazzo and Householder to help Householder’s supporters get elected, ensure passage of certain energy legislation and fund a dirty tricks campaign to stop a repeal referendum from reaching the ballot.

According to the statement, “Primary among FirstEnergy Corp.’s priorities was the passage of nuclear legislation.”

“FirstEnergy’s board of directors moved swiftly and decisively to investigate this matter and, along with the management team, has cooperated and will continue to fully cooperate with the U.S. Attorney’s Office that is investigating the matter,” Donald T. Misheff, nonexecutive chairman of FirstEnergy’s board of directors, said in a Thursday statement.

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