Duke Energy has given thousands of internal documents and emails to North Carolina utility regulators in an ongoing investigation over the company's recent merger with Progress Energy. North Carolina Utilities Commissioners are trying to figure out if Duke Energy misled them in pushing for approval of the merger with Progress Energy and then abruptly ousting the company's would-be-CEO. These documents are the next step in that investigation, though most of them will not be released to the public.
"Many of the documents they've requested pertain to board member communications, board minutes, things of that nature that typically are very sensitive and proprietary and considered what we would call 'trade secrets,'" says Duke spokesman Tom Williams. "So, they were given to the commission, but were given under a confidentiality agreement."
The 500 pages that have been made public are mainly mundane emails between Duke board members and CEO Jim Rogers: forwarded newspaper articles, requests for meetings, that sort of thing. In some exchanges from early 2011, Duke board members Ann Gray and Alex Bernhardt were congratulating - and expressing confidence in - Progress CEO Bill Johnson. Those same board members would ultimately fire Johnson hours after the merger was final.
The emails do show signs of growing dissatisfaction with Johnson as the merger advanced, but offer few details. The results of the investigation could lead utilities commission to rescind - or amend - the Duke/Progress merger and possibly even demand the departure of CEO Jim Rogers.