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Attorneys say ComEd walking back admission to Feds

Accusing Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) of flipping on its admission to the Feds that the utility benefitted more than $150 million as a result of its unlawful bribery of former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, the lead attorneys with the Romanucci & Blandin and DiCello Levitt Gutzler law firms accused ComEd of “behaving with arrogance” and attempting to pick its own punishment.

They filed a Cook County class action lawsuit against ComEd and Exelon last year [2020] in an effort to recover damages they say were caused by ComEd’s admission of a bribery scheme.

This week the attorneys provided comments about ComEd’s latest attempt to lie on the record about the impact of its admitted bribery scheme, while also trying to pick its own penalty before the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC), which ComEd, by its outrageous conduct, apparently believes is biased in its favor.

In a recent Zoom press conference, Attorney Stephan Blandin explained that to avoid criminal prosecution in 2020, ComEd admitted to the United States Department of Justice that the utility bribed Madigan in exchange for favorable formula rates and Zero Emissions Credits (ZEC), credits paid for by ComEd consumers.

However, at the time, ComEd reportedly acknowledged that its unlawful scheme benefitted the company in excess of $150 million, which was paid for by ComEd ratepayers. To avoid liability before the ICC, ComEd is now claiming its actions were completely lawful.

Last August, Illinois regulators began investigating whether ComEd customers were charged for any costs that were associated with the bribery scandal the utility admitted to last year. The Exelon subsidiary had agreed to pay a $200 million fine to resolve the case.

The scandal involved an “old-fashioned patronage system” of jobs at ComEd. At the time, Paul Elsberg, ComEd’s vice president of communications, said their customer rates “did not include money spent on lobbyist costs or costs of political activity.”

In its testimony, ComEd claims it should only have to refund consumers $5 each, or $21 million, for the unlawful actions.

However, the law firm of Romanucci & Blandin said, “Not only is ComEd’s latest representation demonstrably false, but it directly contravenes its obligation to not undermine its Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) admissions, thereby potentially placing it in contempt of court.”

ComEd had signed this agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office last year when ComEd admitted attempting to bribe state officials. Plaintiffs’ class action Co-Lead Counsel, Stephan Blandin and Adam Levitt, have intervened before the ICC to protect ComEd’s customers and to remind the Commission and the State of Illinois of ComEd’s contrary positions.

Class counsel have also learned that the damages from ComEd’s consumer fraud and unjust enrichment are well in excess of the $150 million claimed. The Zero Emission Credit (ZEC) credits and formula rates stretch into the billions of dollars. These credits link to energy initiatives.

“ComEd is behaving with utter arrogance, telling lie after lie and foisting inconsistency after inconsistency onto the courts, the ICC, and the public record, all in an effort to reduce its punishment in the form of dollars repaid to Illinois consumers. They’re trying to pick their own penalty and ram it through the ICC, leaving the very customers who they hurt holding the bag,” said Adam Levitt of DiCello Levitt Gutzler LLC.

“ComEd is using circular logic in its ongoing battle to avoid accountability. They are telling the ICC and others that ComEd’s conduct and rates charged to consumers were legal under state law but forgetting to include that they bribed state officials to enact those laws and rates. It simply makes no sense and has robbed our consumers and businesses of billions of dollars,” said attorney Stephan Blandin of Romanucci & Blandin, LLC.

The class-action lawsuit on behalf of consumers and businesses alleges that Commonwealth Edison violated the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act and unjustly enriched itself by over-charging its four million customers in Illinois for years.

The $200 million ComEd agreement to pay the government following a federal bribery investigation does nothing to compensate the individuals and businesses who actually overpaid.

The lawsuit was filed July 27, 2020, in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Chancery Division.

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