Current Case

ComEd’s Bribery Confession to U.S. Attorney Fails to Account for Consumer Losses

DiCello Levitt seeks to recoup consumer losses for illegally inflated utility bills.

In July 2020, DiCello Levitt and Romanucci & Blandin filed the largest public utilities class action in Illinois history against Commonwealth Edison Company (ComEd) and its parent company, Exelon Corporation (Exelon).

ComEd resorted to a criminal bribery spree when it could not get what it wanted through legitimate means. For years, the Illinois Commerce Commission had rejected ComEd’s requests to approve billions of dollars of excessive capital “improvement” projects that would boost ComEd’s profits. ComEd had also been turned down for years by the Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives in its quest to replace traditional ratemaking proceedings that scrutinized spending with rubber-stamped “formula rates.”

ComEd’s luck improved in 2011 when the Speaker finally agreed to advance legislation that pre-approved ComEd’s expansive projects, scrapped traditional ratemaking protections for rubber-stamped formula rates, and gave ComEd a generous, guaranteed return on equity that far exceeds what should be given to a monopoly that passes all electricity costs to customers and faces no competition for electricity delivery.

In July 2020, ComEd admitted in a Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) with the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois that it bribed the Speaker to obtain that lucrative energy legislation. In fact, the bribery had been so successful for ComEd that it continued the bribery scheme to obtain 2016 legislation that extended formula rates and some projects well into the future and bestowed an unnecessary customer-funded $2.3 billion bailout on two nuclear plants owned by Exelon. According to the DPA, ComEd continued the scheme into 2019. ComEd admitted that it “anticipated benefits” of more than $150 million from the legislation. ComEd agreed to pay a $200 million criminal fine into the U.S. Treasury but has done nothing to compensate its customers for the billions of dollars in damages they have suffered as ComEd’s victims.

ComEd and Exelon cannot be permitted to retain the illicit profits from ComEd’s bribery of the Speaker, all of which should be paid to customers. DiCello Levitt and Romanucci & Blandin responded to the scandal with a civil lawsuit, which Adam Levitt and Stephan Blandin are leading, in their roles as court-appointed Co-Lead Interim Class Counsel. They are pursuing Illinois Consumer Fraud Act, unjust enrichment, and Public Utilities Act claims on behalf of a proposed class of ComEd’s nearly 4 million customers. “ComEd and Exelon will learn all the wrong lessons from their bribery if they can keep all but a small fraction of their illicit profits, every penny of which should be paid to customers,” observed Adam Levitt. “Customers deserve to be compensated, and ComEd and Exelon deserve to be relieved of their illicit profits and punished even beyond that as a deterrent to further public corruption at their hands in Illinois.”