SCANA conspiracy probe widens
By Jerry Bellune
More top SC utility executives may be the next to pled guilty to fraud.
Sources close to the federal probe say they expect Santee Cooper executives, lawyers and lobbyists to be swept up in the $10 million nuclear cover-up.
Santee Cooper executives who knew what was going on lied to board members, sources told the Chronicle.
The big news last week was ex-SCANA CEO Kevin Marsh’s agreement to:
• Plead guilty to federal conspiracy fraud charges.
• Serve up to 18 months in prison and forfeit $5 million in retirement bonuses.
Sources say SCANA board members who awarded Marsh and COO Stephen Byrne millions in bonuses are under investigation, too
Marsh, 65, now living in North Carolina, helped lead a 2-year cover-up from 2016 to 2018 of the financial nightmare that wrecked the twin nuclear reactor project and all but bankrupted SCANA, according to evidence in the case.
SCANA – now owned by Dominion Energy of Virginia – was a publicly-traded utility and only Fortune 500 company in South Carolina.
It had 725,000 electric customers and 350,000 natural gas ratepayers.
Marsh was SCANA CEO from 2011 to 2017.
Under the plea agreement, Marsh will likely face a prison term of 18 to 36 months.
Conspiracy and obtaining property under false pretenses charges expose him to a maximum of 10 years, according to court records.
The more he helps an ongoing investigation of others at SCANA and Santee Cooper, the greater his chances are of a lower prison sentence, according to papers filed in US District Court.
“As construction problems mounted, costs rose and schedules slipped, Marsh ... hid the true state of the project,” a case document reads.
“Through intentional and material misrepresentations and omissions, the defendant, Kevin Marsh, deceived regulators and customers in order to maintain financing for the project and to financially benefit SCANA.”
State regulators on the Public Service Commission allowed Marsh and his associates to charge Lexington County and other state ratepayers $2.2 billion for a nuclear project that would never deliver a single kilowatt of electricity
Marsh’s deceit enabled him and other SCANA top officials to continue collecting generous salaries and bonuses and to deceive stockholders, investors and regulators about the true state of the project, according to federal evidence.
For more on a 2nd SCANA prosecution and aerial photos showing the $10 billion nuclear project's equipment deteriorating, see Thursday's Lexington County Chronicle.