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North Carolina Seeks Additional Data in Duke Energy Probe

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper demanded communications and telephone records related to the state’s probe of Duke Energy Corp.’s merger with Progress Energy Inc.

The requests, dated yesterday, were made to Joele Frank, Wilkinson Brimmer Katcher in New York, and to Browning Investments Inc. President Michael G. Browning in Indianapolis, who, according to regulatory filings, has served on Duke’s board since 1990.

Cooper is investigating whether Duke violated any laws when former Progress Chief Executive Officer Bill Johnson was replaced by Duke Chairman and CEO James Rogers hours after the takeover of Progress closed on July 2 to create the largest U.S. utility owner. The executives testified before the merger that Johnson would be CEO while Rogers served as executive chairman.

The requests demand “any communication” between Frank and Charlotte, North Carolina-based Duke, and to or from Browning “relating in any way to the business of” Duke Energy, Progress or the merged company, according to the letters.

The requests follow an order issued July 12 by the North Carolina Utilities Commission requiring Johnson and four Duke board members, including Browning, to appear at hearings on July 19 and 20 to testify to state regulators about Duke Energy’s decision to replace him.

‘Provide Testimony’

Browning and another director, Ann Maynard Gray, were ordered to appear July 20 to “provide testimony addressing the timing of the decision to replace Johnson with Rogers,” according to the commission’s order.

Jamie Moser, a partner at Joele Frank, Wilkinson Brimmer Katcher, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.

Michael Browning couldn’t be reached by phone at his office, and didn’t immediately return an e-mail seeking comment.

Noelle Talley, a spokeswoman for North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, declined to comment on the demands for information.

Tom Williams, a spokesman for Duke, said in a telephone interview he hadn’t seen the request and couldn’t comment.

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