FirstEnergy avoids high-profile prosecution and pays $230M in fines in pay-for-play scam

House Bill 6 was passed with help from politicians who were elected from FirstEnergy slush fund.
Published: Jul. 22, 2021 at 11:04 AM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Federal investigators and FirstEnergy announced an agreement was reached in what is believed to be Ohio’s largest political corruption scam in state history.

“Under the three-year deferred prosecution agreement, FirstEnergy has agreed to pay a penalty of $230 million, and has agreed to the government’s filing of a single charge of conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud,” First Energy said in a statement released Thursday.

If FirstEnergy abides by all of the agreements in a deal with the U.S. Department of Justice, the single charge would be dismissed in three years.

The plan centered around getting House Bill 6 (HB6) passed in 2019.

HB6 was dubbed a clean energy plan, in which all of Ohio’s energy consumers paid a fee on their monthly bill, with the extra money divided up between energy companies that produced clean energy.

FirstEnergy would have been the major benefactor, collecting some $1 billion, based on its nuclear power plants producing the cleanest energy in the state.

The plan was discovered by federal investigators when they began to follow a money trail that allegedly got State Rep. Larry Householder re-elected, and then elected as Speaker of the House.

Householder pleaded not guilty and continues to claim his innocence to the fraud of using $61 million from a shadow company of FirstEnergy to help get other politicians elected in order to get HB6 passed.

Others from Householders team have already pleaded guilty, including strategists Jeff Longstreth and Juan Cespedes.

Neil Clark was a fourth member of the team facing charges, but he died by suicide in March 2021.

“This resolution and the actions we have agreed to implement build on the substantial steps we have taken over the past several months to strengthen our leadership team, ensure we have a best-in-class compliance program, and significantly modify our approach to political engagement as we work to regain the trust of our stakeholders,” Donald T. Misheff, nonexecutive chairman of FirstEnergy’s board of directors, said.

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