FirstEnergy settles in bribery case for $230 million

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CINCINNATI (AP/WJW) — Federal authorities say Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp. has agreed to a deferred prosecution settlement that calls for the company to fully cooperate and pay a $230 million fine.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Cincinnati and the FBI held a news briefing Thursday.

FirstEnergy officials announced earlier this year it was in talks with the prosecutors on the agreement.

The company has been accused by authorities of secretly funding a $60 million bribery scheme to help win legislative passage of a $1 billion bailout for two nuclear power plants operated by a wholly-owned subsidiary when the bill was passed in July 2019.

In a statement, FirstEnergy wrote:

“Central to FirstEnergy Corp.’s effort to influence the legislative process in Ohio was the use of 501(c)(4) corporate entities. FirstEnergy Corp. used the 501(c)(4) corporate form as a mechanism to conceal payments for the benefit of public officials and in return for official action. FirstEnergy Corp. used 501(c)(4) entities in this way because the law does not require disclosure of donors to a 501(c)(4) and there is no ceiling that limits the amount of expenditures that can be paid to a 501(c)(4) entity for the purpose of influencing the legislative process. This effort would not have been possible, both in the nature and volume of money provided, without the use of a 501(c)(4) entity.”

FirstEnergy CEO and President Steven Strah says the company’s conduct in the bribery scheme was “wrong and unacceptable.” Strah made that remark and others during an earnings call Friday.

Strah says the money will be paid from cash on hand and not customer payments.

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