Politics & Government

SCANA quietly ended internal investigation into VC Summer during Dominion takeover

Former SCANA executive “silenced” for pointing to issues with nuclear project

Charlotte Walker, the former vice president of nuclear finance administration for SCANA testified that executives tried to silence her concerns about the V.C. Summer nuclear project before it failed.
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Charlotte Walker, the former vice president of nuclear finance administration for SCANA testified that executives tried to silence her concerns about the V.C. Summer nuclear project before it failed.

Earlier this year, SCANA quietly disbanded its internal investigation into whether company leaders mismanaged its failed, $9 billion V.C. Summer nuclear construction project, and the findings — if any exist — likely will never become public.

That investigation began in June 2018, when the former Cayce-based power company announced it had hired two new board members to investigate allegations made in lawsuits against the company’s board members and top executives.

But the probe was terminated in early January, when Virginia-based Dominion Energy completed its purchase of SCANA and those board members lost their jobs, a Dominion spokesman told The State this week.

“Since the consummation of the merger, Dominion Energy, as previously disclosed, has cooperated with federal and state authorities while they complete their investigation,” Dominion spokesman Ryan Frazier added before declining to comment further.

SCANA, along with its electric subsidiary SCE&G, has become the subject of more than a dozen lawsuits and a criminal investigation after its July 2017 decision to abort the unfinished construction of two nuclear reactors in Fairfield County.

When SCE&G’s nearly 730,000 electric customers finish paying for it in 20 years, the project will have cost them at least $4.3 billion in the form of higher power bills — thousands of dollars per household.

And SCANA’s shareholders claim executives covered up the project’s problems, costing shareholders billions of dollars in stock value when the construction venture unexpectedly collapsed and SCANA’s stock price plummeted. Defendants in the shareholder lawsuits include SCANA’s entire board, former chief executives Kevin Marsh and Jimmy Addison and former chief operating officer Steve Byrne.

SCANA announced last summer it had hired two new board members to investigate whether those claims were legitimate and should be pursued in court. Jeb Bachman, a retired partner in an international accounting firm, and Patricia Galloway, the former CEO of an international consulting firm, were picked to lead the independent investigation.

Their findings would have been presented to a judge handling the civil lawsuits, but Dominion’s takeover of SCANA was finalized before the internal investigation was completed.

Bachman and Galloway hired two law firms to help investigate the claims, but Frazier this week would not identify the firms or say how much they cost — only that those expenses would not be passed along to ratepayers.

It also is unclear how much Bachman and Galloway were paid — though SCANA’s board members each earned at least $219,000 in cash and stock in 2017, according to company filings. Efforts to reach them for comment were unsuccessful.

The internal investigation’s findings, if any, could be assessed by state or federal investigators probing the project’s failure and whether SCANA executives misled investors about the V.C. Summer expansion’s progress.

The State Law Enforcement Division, S.C. Attorney General’s Office, U.S. Attorney’s Office, FBI and U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission have investigated the V.C. Summer project’s failure for months but so far have filed no charges.

Dominion says it has hired Richmond-based law firm McGuireWoods to represent the company as it cooperates with that investigation.

Avery G. Wilks is The State’s senior S.C. State House and politics reporter. He was named the 2018 S.C. Journalist of the Year by the South Carolina Press Association. He grew up in Chester, S.C., and graduated from the University of South Carolina’s top-ranked Honors College in 2015.
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