By John Murawski and David Ranii
Ousted Duke Energy chief executive Bill Johnson will tell his side of the story next week as the N.C. Utilities Commission escalates its probe into his firing.
He is expected to counter charges that reinstated Duke CEO Jim Rogers made before the commission this week. Rogers testified that Johnson had lost the confidence of the Duke board because of his “autocratic” leadership style and the weak performance of Progress Energy’s nuclear plants.
“There are certain parts of Mr. Rogers’ testimony that he will disagree with, and with due respect, but it would be difficult and maybe even improper to say what those are,” said Johnson’s Raleigh attorney, Wade Smith. “I think he will have a different view on some things.”
Johnson did not seek to appear before the commission, Smith said.
The N.C. Utilities Commission also has directed four Duke board members to testify next week. It has also told Duke to turn over emails and documents from the past two years by July 31.
The commission has given no indication as to how long its investigation could last. It wants to know when the Duke board decided to fire Johnson, who was asked to resign just hours after the $32 billion merger between Duke and Progress was completed. The commission approved the merger on June 29 with the understanding that Johnson, who was CEO of Progress, would run the combined company. The N.C. Attorney General’s Office has initiated its own investigation.
The scrutiny has exposed a deep rift on Duke’s corporate board, prying open the normally secretive boardroom proceedings. The direction of the probe poses increasing challenges for Duke as the company seeks to assuage Wall Street jitters while integrating Progress divisions and employees into the combined company.
In the wake of Johnson’s exit, three top-level executives who came to Duke from Progress resigned this week.