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Robert Trigaux

Fear and loathing of Duke Energy: What happens when a big company loses its goodwill?




Duke Energy headquarters in Charlotte, N.C. AP photo

Wake up and good morning. Leave it to Duke Energy to reinforce the cliches of a monopoly electric utility -- now the nation's biggest -- that thumbs its nose at the world at corporate ethics, fair play, market transparency and management discipline. Well, that world is pretty disgusted and angry at Duke, which today must explain to North Carolina regulators why the company was so deceptive in ousting Bill Johnson in the first day as CEO of the merged Duke-Progress Energy and replacing him with old Duke CEO Jim Rogers.

Here are the five best recent critical assessments of Duke's shoddy behavior:

1.  CEO Swap at Duke Puts State in Hot Seat says the headline of this Wall Street Journal story. The abrupt ouster of Duke's new CEO "is adding pressure on North Carolina officials who already faced public criticism for letting the states two largest utilities combine."

2. Duke Deceives Investors writes the's Glenn Williams. "There is also the issue of corporate culture. As the industry learned from one of (Jim) Rogers' former employers, Enron, corporate culture starts at the top. If deceptive maneuvers and ambush tactics are adopted and rewarded by senior executives, that culture will find its way down the corporate ladder and become a fixture throughout Duke's organization.

3. Nation in Disgust Over Duke-Progress Fiasco writes the Triangle Business Journal. "The blogs are filling up with comments that range from incredulity to outright disgust..."

4. Advice for Rogers on how to relate by Raleigh News & Observer columnist Barry Saunders. "If people in the Triangle didn't like Charlotte before -- don't look at me like I'm the only one -- they certainly won't like them any more since they stole our only Fortune 500 company and then canned its CEO."

5. Duke, Progress merger complaints rings hollow by Tampa Bay Times metro columnist John Romano.  "Perhaps Progress Energy should look to its constituents to support on this (coup by Duke). Appeal to the customers who have paid more than $1 billion in advance for a nuclear plant that still looks like a figment of the imagination... Or maybe that's not such a good idea."

Still hungry for some Duke outrage? Here's my own Tampa Bay Times column that looks at Duke's sordid "fraud" and "gross mismanagement" issues in Indiana. As if the company needed to display more of its true colors.

And just out of curiosity, where are the mum federal regulators that blessed this Duke deal? Is everyone in D.C. too busy packing for the parties at the Democratic National Convention -- in Charlotte -- later this summer?

-- Robert Trigaux, business columnist, Tampa Bay Times


[Last modified: Tuesday, July 10, 2012 7:57am]


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