CINCINNATI – FirstEnergy Corp. has been charged federally with conspiring to commit honest services wire fraud and has agreed to pay a $230 million monetary penalty. The company signed a deferred prosecution agreement that could potentially result in dismissal of the charge.
The charge and agreement stem from the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s ongoing public corruption prosecutions. In today’s court filings, FirstEnergy Corp., an Akron, Ohio-based public utility holding company, admits it conspired with public officials and other individuals and entities to pay millions of dollars to public officials in exchange for specific official action for FirstEnergy Corp.’s benefit.
FirstEnergy Corp. acknowledged in the deferred prosecution agreement that it paid millions of dollars to an elected state public official through the official’s alleged 501(c)(4) in return for the official pursuing nuclear legislation for FirstEnergy Corp.’s benefit.
The company also acknowledged that it used 501(c)(4) entities, including one it controlled, to further the scheme because it allowed certain FirstEnergy Corp. executives and co-conspirators to conceal from the public the nature, source and control of payments.
FirstEnergy Corp. further acknowledged that it paid $4.3 million dollars to a second public official. In return, the individual acted in their official capacity to further First Energy Corp.’s interests related to passage of nuclear legislation and other company priorities.
FirstEnergy Corp. has cooperated substantially with the government, and according to the deferred prosecution agreement, the company must continue to cooperate fully with the United States in all matters related to the company’s conduct described in the agreement and other conduct under investigation by the government, among other obligations.
For example, within 60 days of today’s filing, FirstEnergy Corp. must pay $115 million to the United States and $115 million to the Ohio Development Service Agency’s Percentage of Income Payment Plus Plan, a program that provides assistance to Ohioans in paying their regulated utility bills.
Other terms in the agreement include publicly disclosing on its website any FirstEnergy Corp. contributions to 501(c)(4) entities and entities known by FirstEnergy Corp. to be operating for the benefit of a public official, either directly or indirectly, and making various provisions to improve corporate compliance moving forward.
As part of the agreement, FirstEnergy Corp. admitted to the facts alleged in the Information and outlined in the Statement of Facts, which detail actions by FirstEnergy Corp. executives to pay money to public officials in return for official action. As a corporation, FirstEnergy Corp. is responsible for the acts of its current and former officers, directors, employees and agents.
Vipal J. Patel, Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, and Chris Hoffman, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Cincinnati Division, announced the charge and agreement. Deputy Criminal Chief Emily N. Glatfelter and Assistant United States Attorney Matthew C. Singer are representing the United States in this case.
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