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Ex-ComEd CEO, three others tied to utility charged in Illinois bribery probe

Increase font size  Decrease font size Date:2020-11-24   Views:21
Federal prosecutors have charged former Commonwealth Edison Co. CEO Anne Pramaggiore and three others in connection with an effort to influence legislation by steering jobs and contracts to associates of a top Illinois lawmaker.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Illinois on Nov. 18 charged the four individuals, all of whom have ties to ComEd, with bribery conspiracy, bribery, and willfully falsifying the utility's books and records. The charges (USA v. McClain et al.; 1:20-cr-00812) come four months after ComEd agreed to pay a $200 million fine to resolve a bribery investigation that has implicated House Speaker Mike Madigan, a Democrat.
Pramaggiore served as CEO of ComEd from about March 2012 to May 2018 and later became senior executive vice president of ComEd parent company Exelon Corp. and CEO of Exelon Utilities. She stepped down from that role in October 2019.

Along with Pramaggiore, the 50-page indictment names John Hooker, who served as ComEd's executive vice president of legislative and external affairs from 2009 to 2012 and later worked until 2019 as an external lobbyist for the utility. Michael McClain, who served in the state House of Representatives for about 10 years starting in 1972 and later worked as a lobbyist and/or consultant for ComEd until 2019, and Jay Doherty, whose firm provided consulting services for ComEd from 2011 to 2019, also were named.

As with other court filings related to the bribery probe, the indictment makes repeated references to "Public Official A," who is identified as the "Speaker of the House of Representatives." While the document does not specifically name Madigan, he has served in that position almost continuously since the 1980s.

According to prosecutors, the defendants' efforts to influence and reward "Public Official A" took place over a time period starting in or about 2011 and continuing through about 2019. They took up the influence campaign in a bid to get legislation favorable to ComEd passed and legislation unfavorable to the utility and its businesses defeated, the indictment said.

Prosecutors alleged that the defendants conspired to influence and reward "Public Official A" by arranging for jobs and contracts for the official's political allies and workers, even in cases where those people performed little or no work in those positions. The defendants allegedly "created and caused the creation of false contracts, invoices and other books and records to disguise the true nature of certain of the payments and to circumvent internal controls," the indictment said.

In addition, the indictment alleged that the defendants took other steps to influence and reward "Public Official A," including causing ComEd to retain an outside law firm favored by the official and to accept into the utility's internship program a certain number of students who resided in the Chicago ward associated with the official.

Pramaggiore and McClain also allegedly took steps to have an individual appointed to ComEd's board of directors at the request of the official, prosecutors said.

An attorney for Doherty was not immediately available on Nov. 19 to respond to a request for comment. McClain's attorney was not yet listed in the court record.

In a Nov. 19 email, a spokesman for Pramaggiore sent a statement defending the former ComEd executive's actions and refuting charges that she engaged in unlawful behavior.

"After enduring months of baseless innuendo and misinformation, Anne Pramaggiore welcomes a full and truthful accounting of the facts in this matter," the statement said. "She is confident a review will reaffirm her unwavering adherence to the highest ethical standards and finally put to rest the damaging speculation that any actions she took constitute illegal activity."

Hooker's attorney, Jacqueline Jacobson, in an emailed statement said that her client is "not guilty of the charges in this unfair indictment."

"We believe the government has misinterpreted the law and seeks to criminalize conduct that has long been accepted as proper and lawful," Jacobson said. "We believe that Mr. Hooker will be found not guilty."

Latest development in probe
ComEd and Madigan have faced public scrutiny since federal prosecutors in July announced a deal to defer prosecution on a bribery charge against ComEd for three years and eventually seek to dismiss that charge if the company adheres to certain conditions. Along with paying the $200 million fine, the deferred prosecution agreement requires ComEd to continue cooperating with the government's investigation and enhance its corporate compliance program.

In announcing that deal, federal prosecutors said ComEd admitted to arranging jobs, vendor subcontracts, and monetary payments associated with those jobs and subcontracts for associates of "Public Official A" to influence and reward the official's efforts to help ComEd with respect to legislation concerning the company and its business.

Madigan has not been charged with any crime, and he repeatedly has denied allegations of wrongdoing to Illinois media outlets. Officials from ComEd and Exelon have vowed to restore trust lost because of the scandal and pledged to implement ethics reforms.

Prosecutors in September charged Fidel Marquez, who stepped down as ComEd's senior vice president of governmental and external affairs in October 2019, with conspiracy to commit bribery (USA v. Marquez; 1:20-cr-00602). Marquez has since pled guilty to the charge.
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