The Chicago Syndicate: ComEd Pays $200 Million to Resolve Bribery Scheme Amid Reports of Allegedly Arranging Jobs and Contracts for Political Allies of Michael Madigan?
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Friday, July 17, 2020

ComEd Pays $200 Million to Resolve Bribery Scheme Amid Reports of Allegedly Arranging Jobs and Contracts for Political Allies of Michael Madigan?

Commonwealth Edison Company (“ComEd”), the largest electric utility in Illinois, has agreed to pay $200 million to resolve a federal criminal investigation into a years-long bribery scheme, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago announced.

The criminal investigation of ComEd is being resolved with a deferred prosecution agreement under which ComEd admitted it arranged jobs, vendor subcontracts, and monetary payments associated with those jobs and subcontracts, for various associates of a high-level elected official for the state of Illinois, to influence and reward the official’s efforts to assist ComEd with respect to legislation concerning ComEd and its business. The U.S. Attorney’s Office today filed a one-count criminal information in U.S. District Court in Chicago charging ComEd with bribery. Under the agreement, the government will defer prosecution on the charge for three years and then seek to dismiss it if ComEd abides by certain conditions, including continuing to cooperate with ongoing investigations of individuals or other entities related to the conduct described in the bribery charge.

The deferred prosecution agreement, which is subject to approval by the U.S. District Court, requires ComEd to pay a $200 million fine. A court date for the approval hearing has not yet been scheduled.

The bribery charge and deferred prosecution agreement were announced by John R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Emmerson Buie, Jr., Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago office of the FBI; and Kathy A. Enstrom, Special Agent-in-Charge of the IRS Criminal Investigation Division in Chicago. The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Amarjeet S. Bhachu, Diane MacArthur, Timothy J. Chapman, Sarah E. Streicker, Matthew L. Kutcher, and Michelle Kramer.

In addition to the monetary penalty and obligation to continue cooperating with government investigations, ComEd’s obligations under the deferred prosecution agreement include enhancing its compliance program and providing annual reports to the government regarding remediation and implementation of its compliance measures. If ComEd fails to completely perform or fulfill each of its obligations under the agreement during the three-year term, the U.S. Attorney’s Office can initiate prosecution of the charged offense.

ComEd’s admissions regarding the charged conduct are contained in a Statement of Facts attached to the deferred prosecution agreement. ComEd admitted that its efforts to influence and reward the high-level elected official – identified in the Statement of Facts as “Public Official A” – began in or around 2011 and continued through in or around 2019. During that time, the Illinois General Assembly considered bills and passed legislation that had a substantial impact on ComEd’s operations and profitability, including legislation that affected the regulatory process used to determine the electricity rates ComEd charged its customers. Public Official A controlled what measures were called for a vote in the Illinois House of Representatives and exerted substantial influence over fellow lawmakers concerning legislation affecting ComEd. The company admitted that it arranged for jobs and vendor subcontracts for Public Official A’s political allies and workers even in instances where those people performed little or no work that they were purportedly hired by ComEd to perform.

In addition to the jobs and contracts, ComEd further admitted that it undertook other efforts to influence and reward Public Official A, including by appointing an individual to ComEd’s Board of Directors at the request of Public Official A; retaining a particular law firm at the request of Public Official A; and accepting into the company’s internship program a certain amount of students who resided in the Chicago ward where Public Official A was associated.

To date, ComEd has provided substantial cooperation with the federal investigations. Per the terms of the agreement, the company will continue to provide such cooperation until all investigations and prosecutions arising out of the charged conduct are concluded.

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