RALEIGH — Duke Energy said it agreed to reimburse some of its largest wholesale customers if they incurred costs stemming from the utility's merger with rival Progress Energy.
The utility on Friday filed documents with the North Carolina Utilities Commission related to its merger side deals. The agreements focus on "hold harmless" provisions with wholesale customers for costs they incurred or could incur because of the merger for up to 5 years, such as legal fees or the severance costs for future employee layoffs.
Duke inked deals with several of its biggest North Carolina customers, including smaller retail electricity providers as Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corporation and Piedmont Electric Membership Corporation.
Duke officials had argued that the information included in the agreements constituted trade secrets. But the Utilities Commission ruled earlier this month the deals have no commercial value, so disclosing them wouldn't give anyone else an economic advantage. The documents had been sought by several media outlets under public requests.
Days after approval by North Carolina regulators, Duke Energy and Progress Energy completed their merger in July, sealing a deal to create the nation's largest electric company. But hours after the deal was completed, Duke Energy's board ousted the CEO it promised to keep throughout the 18-month process of combining the two Fortune 500 energy companies headquartered in North Carolina.
Utilities regulators and the state's attorney general have launched investigations that have triggered extensive demands for internal Duke documents and communications. The commission, which is considering whether to alter its approval of the merger, has hired a former federal prosecutor to probe whether regulators were misled ahead of the acquisition.
The investigation could take a while. The last time the commission launched a similar probe, it hired outside auditors who took nine months to comb through Duke's books. They found Duke underreported profits by $124 million over three years. Duke paid $25 million in a settlement that included no admission of wrongdoing.
Duke Energy now has 7.1 million residential and business customers in North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and Florida.