Regulators focus on trust after inquiry into Duke-Progress leadership issue
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CHARLOTTE – Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers' testimony to state regulators Tuesday is just the first step in what could be a long investigation. How the company handles questions from the North Carolina Utilities Commission will affect Duke's credibility with regulators, shareholders and customers, analysts say.
Toward the end of their four-hour inquiry into the Duke Energy CEO shakeup, state regulators made it clear they are focused on one word: trust.
“We've got to, both sides here, we've got to go forward and maintain an element of trust," said Chairman Edward Finley.
Rogers acknowledged relationships need to be repaired.
"I understand your dilemma in not being able to totally trust me,” he said. “I get that. But the reality is my track record speaks for itself."
That track record will factor into the commission's review of Duke's merger with Progress energy and the ouster of Progress chief Bill Johnson, who was supposed to lead the combined company.
"Obviously it's making things more difficult," said Peter Schwarz, an economics professor at UNC Charlotte who studies energy.
There's also the issue of the company's commitment to Raleigh, Progress Energy's former headquarters.
"The commission is going to have to decide how much of what Raleigh expected to get do we need to make sure they get.,” Schwarz said. “And that's not so much of an economic decision as it is a political decision."
The utilities commission threatened to require Duke to stay in the capital city.
“I would hope that we wouldn't have to issue an order requiring you to maintain a corporate presence in Raleigh," Finley said.
Rogers told commissioners he promised to maintain a presence in Raleigh.
What, if anything, the commission does about the merger will affect stockholders.
"This is a higher risk situation than they had anticipated," Schwarz said.
It also will impact customers, as Duke plans to ask regulators for a rate hike later this summer. How the commission views the company could affect its ruling on the increase.