A utility company involved in a bribery case that led to a 20-year prison sentence for a former Ohio Speaker of the House may be facing additional legal troubles.
Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp. disclosed in its latest quarterly earnings report Aug. 1 that the Ohio Attorney General’s Organized Crime Investigations Commission served it a subpoena a day earlier seeking information relating to the racketeering case that sent former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and lobbyist Matt Borges to prison. Federal prosecutors said the two conspired to bail out two nuclear plants then owned by FirstEnergy with more than $1 billion in exchange for millions of dollars in bribes.
In 2021, FirstEnergy signed a deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, admitting to one count of conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud and agreeing to pay $230 million in fines. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission also fined FirstEnergy $3.9 million earlier this year. But the company said in its earnings report that it was unaware that Ohio authorities were also investigating the case.
Representatives from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office did not immediately respond to inquiries, but FirstEnergy had said in the earnings report that it is cooperating with investigators. A company spokesperson noted that it "accepted full responsibility for its past actions and has addressed them by entering into the deferred prosecution agreement with the Department of Justice in July 2021 and paying a substantial penalty in connection with that resolution," but said they could not comment on the investigation.
FirstEnergy no longer owns the two nuclear plants, Perry Nuclear Power Plant in Perry, Ohio, and Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station in Oak Harbor, Ohio. The company spun them off under a former subsidiary, Energy Harbor, which Texas-based Vistra Corp. said in March that it agreed to acquire in a deal worth more than $3.4 billion.
FirstEnergy is not the only utility company to sign a deferred prosecution agreement with federal officials over alleged bribery. Illinois’ Commonwealth Edison signed one in 2020, and earlier this year four people were found guilty in a related corruption trial in Chicago.