Thursday, November 1, 2012

McColl misfires on Utilities Commission’s duty to probe Duke

Charlotte Observer  July 25, 2012

McColl misfires on Utilities Commission’s duty to probe Duke

From John Clark, station manager of WDAV for 18 years, now retired, in response to Hugh McColl’s “Regulators should stay out of Duke Energy’s board room” (July 22 For the Record); reach Clark at

I don’t live in Raleigh and don’t have friends, relatives or associates in state government public oversight agencies, but I did find Hugh McColl’s opinion article disappointing.

First admission: I have a great deal of respect for Hugh McColl and his many salient contributions to the life and fabric of the city of Charlotte. I’ve met him a few times and like him.

Second thought: Hugh would have been better served by not requesting the Observer publish his writing. He should have first counted to ten.

The public utilities commission is charged by law to look out for the public’s interest in the matters of a regulated utility. What is a regulated utility? It simply is an organization that is providing such a vital service to the people of a specific region that it gets government approval to operate as a monopoly. A regulated monopoly.

Consequently, it operates neither like the tire store down the street nor like Bank of America. That’s an important distinction that Hugh fails to note. He did cite his experience as head of a company that was regulated – although those regulations over time continued to be eliminated in part through his efforts – and he even admitted he was chairman of his BofA board, which seems to me to contravene at least the spirit of board oversight of the CEO, a position he held at the same time he was chairman.

In short, let’s get real. Boards of directors do indeed have the fiduciary responsibility for the operations of a company and specifically the performance of its CEO. But in reality, and I would argue particularly at BofA, many boards are but a group of yes-men and women. Witness the actions of CEOs with board approval at both BofA and Wachovia leading right up to the Great Recession. Wachovia is gone and BofA has been crippled.

The public utilities commission is within its right and duty to investigate this matter. Whether or not it finds any action punishable by law is not the issue now. It is representing the interests of people like me, especially those citizens in the Raleigh area who, through the merger, are losing a corporate headquarters (we in Charlotte now know what that’s like) and some who will be losing their jobs.

Hugh, your article was right on as a general description of businesses and business boards. Within the context of the Duke-Progress Energy merger and the way it was conducted, your view totally misses the mark. Copyright 2012 . All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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