In the News | 09/20/22

Attorney general seeking more money for consumers from ComEd for scandal tied to House Speaker Michael Madigan

A month after state regulators ordered Commonwealth Edison to pay $38 million in refunds due to the scandal tied to ex-House Speaker Michael Madigan, the Illinois attorney general wants consumers to get a little more.

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul on Tuesday said ComEd used “accounting tricks” that cost consumers millions of dollars when the company separately paid a $200 million fine tied to the federal court case in the scandal, and now the attorney general is seeking bigger refunds.

Raoul took the positions as he asked the Illinois Commerce Commission to reconsider an August order that called for ComEd to pay $38 million in refunds to consumers — an amount that would mean about $5 more for the typical electricity user.

Raoul, working with Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the consumer watchdog group Citizens Utility Board, said the ComEd accounting technique allowed the company to already collect an extra $7 million from customers and potentially millions more annually.

“ComEd should not be allowed to profit from its wrongdoing by using accounting tricks to collect more money,” Raoul said in a statement. “The ICC should not allow ComEd to shift the impact of its … fine to customers by charging them millions of dollars every year.”

ComEd disagreed with the analysis, citing how the ICC had agreed with the $38 million refund. A ComEd spokesman said the company had met its obligations.

In July 2020, ComEd acknowledged it hired Madigan cronies into little-work jobs, gave internships to a bevy of college kids from his 13th Ward empire and installed a person Madigan recommended on its board of directors — all in hopes that the speaker of the House would look favorably on the utility’s legislative agenda.

Madigan, a Chicago Democrat, was indicted in March on 22 counts of bribery-related and racketeering counts and has pleaded not guilty.

ComEd entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with federal prosecutors and promised to pay a record $200 million fine. The company agreed to cooperate in the ongoing investigation and, if satisfied, prosecutors would drop a bribery charge.

To pay ComEd’s $200 million fine, Raoul said, the utility received a contribution from its parent company, Exelon Corp., causing an equity infusion that gives ComEd a permanent boost.

Abe Scarr, who heads Illinois PIRG, a public interest research group, said the additional money for consumers would not amount to a major windfall for individuals, but the “principle is important.”

“ComEd used clever accounting to boost its profits off of paying its federal criminal penalty,” Scarr said.

The move also increased ComEd’s overall profit rate, Scarr said.

Though similar arguments were used in previous ICC hearings, regulators rejected them.

Lightfoot said in a statement the push for a rehearing is an “important step to ensure that Chicago customers are protected after these events that damaged the public trust.”

Paul Elsberg, a top ComEd spokesman, said the contributions Exelon made to fund ComEd’s payment of the criminal fine “were not paid for by customers and had no impact on their rates.”

Read on the Chicago Tribune

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