Duke Energy Asks North Carolina to Postpone July 20 Hearing

Duke Energy Corp. asked North Carolina regulators to wait to question two Duke directors about their role in an unexpected CEO shuffle at the power company until Duke provides documents requested by the state’s utilities commission.

Duke directors Ann Gray and Michael Browning are slated to appear before the North Carolina Utilities Commission on July 20. Former Progress Energy Inc. Chief Executive Officer Bill Johnson, who was ousted hours after Duke bought his company, will testify in a hearing July 19 along with two former Progress directors.

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper is also investigating the abrupt CEO switch at Duke after the merger closed July 2. Florida regulators have asked Johnson’s replacement, James Rogers, to testify at an Aug. 13 hearing. Shareholders sued the Duke directors today, alleging that they misled them and damaged the company’s reputation.

Regulators asked Duke to provide by July 31 all employment contracts with Rogers, all board and committee meeting minutes since July 1, 2010, and all memos, letters, e-mails and other written and recorded communications from Rogers to board members.

Ann Gray, Duke’s lead director, said that replacing Johnson with Duke CEO James Rogers was the “least bad option” considered by the board in the weeks before the $17.8 billion transaction closed, in testimony posted on the commission website today.

Other Options

Duke directors in a May 30 session debated approaching Progress about their concerns, which included Johnson’s management style and his oversight of Progress’s nuclear fleet. Directors also considered completing the merger and deferring any action on the CEO “for some period of time,” Gray said.

“The new Duke, its customers, its employees, its communities and its shareholders will all benefit from this combination,” Gray said. “In order to realize those benefits, I believe that moving forward is in the interest of all parties.”

Sam Watson, general counsel for the commission, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

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