Posted: July 23rd, 2012 | By: Bruce Henderson and Ely Portillo
Duke Energy has brought in two highly regarded trial lawyers as the N.C. Utilities Commission hears testimony Thursday from former Progress Energy CEO Bill Johnson about his post-merger resignation.
Charlotte lawyer Jim Cooney and former N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Burley Mitchell gave notice to the commission on Tuesday that they will appear for Duke. A third high-profile lawyer, Raleigh’s Wade Smith, already represents Johnson.
Their presence signals the growing stakes in the Duke merger, which is being investigated by both the Utilities Commission and Attorney General Roy Cooper. The commission could also bring in its own hired experts at Duke’s expense.
Filings Tuesday by Cooney and Mitchell also began Duke’s polite push-back to the Utilities Commission’s demands.
Duke said two directors the commission has called, lead director Ann Maynard Gray and longtime director Michael Browning, will voluntarily testify but asked for a delay.
The company objected to the eight-day notice the commission gave the directors and argued that subpoena power doesn’t extend to witnesses who live outside North Carolina – Gray in Connecticut and Browning in Indiana. Duke said neither director was served with the commission’s order for them to appear.
The commission slapped those arguments down Wednesday, refusing to delay Friday’s hearing.
“The commission and parties have had ample time to develop the facts and issues,” the denial order said. “In addition, (Duke CEO Jim) Rogers’ testimony on July 10 focused heavily on the actions of Duke’s board members. Thus, Gray and Browning knew that the commission was likely to call them as witnesses.”
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