SCANA said Friday it would launch its own investigation into whether its board and top executives mismanaged a failed nuclear construction project, failing shareholders in the process.
The embattled Cayce-based utility has brought in outside help for the job, expanding its board of directors by two.
New board members Jeb Bachman, a retired partner in a major international accounting firm, and Patricia Galloway, the former chief executive of an international consulting firm, will form a two-member committee to investigate claims of mismanagement alleged in lawsuits against SCANA.
After they complete their investigation, Bachman and Galloway will decide whether to pursue those claims in court against the rest of the board and top company executives.
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SCANA is being sued by its shareholders and customers after it and its minority partner, the state-owned Santee Cooper utility, pulled the plug last July on the $9 billion, decade-long construction of two nuclear reactors in Fairfield County. The now-abandoned project has cost customers of SCANA’s electric subsidiary, SCE&G, $2 billion so far in the form of higher rates and stands to cost them billions of dollars more. Shareholders also have lost billions of dollars in value as SCANA’s stock price has plummeted.
Bachman and Galloway are expected to hire an outside law firm to investigate the validity of claims that SCANA’s board — along with current and former executives — botched the V.C. Summer nuclear project.
Shareholder lawsuits allege SCANA leaders were aware of critical problems dooming the nuclear project and covered them up, rather than fixing them or alerting shareholders and the public.
The defendants in those lawsuits include every other member of the SCANA board, current chief executive Jimmy Addison, former chief executive Kevin Marsh and former chief operating officer Steve Byrne. Marsh and Byrne announced their retirements last fall, three months after the nuclear project collapsed.
Bachman, from Boston, Mass., was a partner at the London-based PricewaterhouseCoopers accounting firm until retiring in 2015.
Galloway is an engineer and the former chief executive of Pegasus-Global Holdings, which consults with companies on major energy and infrastructure construction projects, according to SCANA’s news release. She lives in Cle Elum, Wash.
In related news, Dominion Energy said Friday it has received the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s approval to buy SCANA. The approval is one of a handful that Dominion needs to close the deal, which the two companies announced in January..
The most important of those OKs also is the most uncertain: The S.C. Public Service Commission is set to rule on the Dominion deal in December.