North Carolina Utility Board Hires Valukas for Duke Probe

The North Carolina Utilities Commission hired Jenner & Block Chairman Anton Valukas to aid in its probe of whether it was misled when it approved Duke Energy Corp.’s takeover of Progress Energy Inc., the law firm said.

Valukas is a former U.S. Attorney in Chicago and served as U.S. Justice Department examiner in the Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. bankruptcy, documenting that firm’s collapse in 2008.

The state agency is investigating Duke’s decision to fire Progress Energy Chief Executive Officer Bill Johnson within hours of completing the $17.8 billion dollar merger that last month created the largest U.S. utility owner.

Johnson, who was to be CEO of the combined companies, was replaced by Duke CEO Jim Rogers.

Valukas and his firm “will advise and assist the commission in the further conduct of its investigation,” the state agency said in a statement announcing the hiring. “Under state law, the costs associated with the investigation will be charged to Duke and will not be passed on to its customers.”

“We have fully cooperated with the North Carolina Utilities Commission in its recent investigation of Duke Energy,” Tom Williams, a spokesman for the Charlotte, North Carolina-based company, said in an e-mailed statement. “That will continue.”

The last time the state commission hired an outside firm was about 10 years ago, when it retained Grant Thornton LLP to audit Duke’s records as part of an accounting investigation, according to the commission’s website.

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