A month after state regulators ordered Commonwealth Edison to pay $38 million in refunds due to the scandal involving former House Speaker Michael Madigan, the Illinois attorney general wants consumers to get a little more.
Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul said Tuesday that ComEd used “accounting tricks” that cost consumers millions of dollars when the company separately paid a $200 million penalty. linked to the federal court case in the scandal, and now the attorney general is seeking larger refunds.
Raoul took the positions when he asked the Illinois Commerce Commission to reconsider an August order. that required ComEd to pay $38 million in refunds to consumers, an amount that would mean about $5 more for the typical electricity user.
Raoul, working with Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the consumer watchdog group Citizens Utility Board, said ComEd’s accounting technique allowed the company to collect an additional $7 million from customers and potentially millions more annually.
“ComEd must not be allowed to profit from its wrongdoing by using accounting tricks to raise more money,” Raoul said in a statement. “The ICC must not allow ComEd to shift the impact of its … fine onto customers by charging them millions of dollars each year.”
ComEd disagreed with the analysis, citing how the ICC had agreed to the $38 million refund. A ComEd spokesman said the company had met its obligations.
In July 2020, ComEd acknowledged that it hired Madigan cronies for menial jobs, gave internships to a group of college kids from its District 13 empire, and installed a person Madigan recommended on its board of directors, all in hopes of that the Speaker of the House would look favorably on the utility’s legislative agenda.
Madigan, a Chicago Democrat, was charged in March on 22 accounts of charges related to bribery and extortion and has pleaded not guilty.
ComEd entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with federal prosecutors and promised to pay a record $200 million fine. The company agreed to cooperate in the ongoing investigation and, if satisfied, prosecutors would drop the bribery charges.
To pay ComEd’s $200 million fine, Raoul said, the utility received a contribution from its parent company, Exelon Corp., prompting an infusion of capital that gives ComEd a permanent boost.
Abe Scarr, who runs Illinois PIRG, a public interest research group, said the extra money for consumers wouldn’t be a big windfall for people, but “the principle is important.”
“ComEd used smart accounting to increase their profits by paying their federal criminal fine,” Scarr said.
The move also boosted ComEd’s overall profit rate, Scarr said.
Although similar arguments were used in previous ICC hearings, regulators rejected them.
Lightfoot said in a statement that pushing for a new hearing is an “important step in ensuring Chicago customers are protected following these events that damaged public trust.”
Paul Elsberg, one of ComEd’s main spokesmen, said the contributions Exelon made to fund ComEd’s payment of the criminal fine “were not paid by customers and had no impact on their rates.”