Duke’s U.S. Regulator Backs Utility Boards’ Right to Pick Chiefs

Jon Wellinghoff, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, said a utility’s board has the right to decide who runs the company while declining to discuss the ouster of Duke Energy Corp.’s chief last month.

Wellinghoff was asked today to comment on the Duke board’s decision to fire Chief Executive Officer Bill Johnson, 58, within hours of the company completing the $17.8 billion takeover of Johnson’s Progress Energy Inc. The deal, approved by FERC on June 8, remains an open docket and Wellinghoff said he can’t comment on the case.

“I believe that a board of directors of a utility has the right to decide whoever they want to run the utility,” Wellinghoff said at a Platts Energy Podium in Washington today. “Once the board of directors does that, regardless of their timing, I think everybody needs to move on.”

Duke replaced Johnson with Jim Rogers, 64, who ran the Charlotte, North Carolina-based company before the merger and had agreed to become chairman, clearing the job for Johnson. The shift triggered an investigation by the North Carolina Utilities Commission, which also approved the transaction.

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