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NC gets a little taste of the modern robber baron economy

There are at least a couple of thoughts that occur this morning in wake of the latest news about Duke Energy’s acquisition of (sorry, merger with) Progress Energy (née CP&L):

#1 – While some in the mainstream news media (and the Utilities Commission Public Staff) seem surprised that former progress chief Bill Johnson (right) has now been muscled out of the way and given a platinum parachute by the big Monopoly game winner Jim Rogers (left), my first reaction was: How could you not see this coming? Fat cat, empire-building CEO’s like Rogers are not about sharing power; they’re about winning it and grabbing more. The bottom line here is that Rogers came to this game with more weapons and almost certainly always intended to emerge “victorious.” All the public talk about cooperation and merger were almost certainly p.r. bull.

#2- And as for Johnson, news reports now peg the parting gift for the 58 year old former head of a regulated PUBLIC utility at $44.7 million — Forty-four point seven million dollars!!  This mean Johnson’s personal severance is roughly equivalent to the combined median, annual household income of 1,000 North Carolina families. While we’re all painfully aware that this is chump change in comparison to what the real robber barons on Wall Street have been pulling down in recent years, it’s still worth noting that it is, in a word, obscene. Johnson does not need the money, did not earn the money and should not receive it. He really ought to be ashamed.

#3- Fortunately for Johnson, however, there’s no doubt that the new and bigger Duke will have the wherewithal to pay him off.  North Carolina customers will soon experience a rate hike as part of the whole deal. If there were any courage and justice in the world, the Utilities Commission would add a new line item to everyone’s electric bill that specifies exactly what their monthly share is for keeping Johnson and Rogers in champagne and caviar.

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