A $1 billion lawsuit could be halted after a bill was passed by the legislature.
The bill, which was passed last week, clarifies that the Mississippi Public Service Commission would be the ones to address a claim against an electric company, and that authority would be taken out of the hands of the attorney general’s office.
Such a lawsuit was filled back in 2008. Attorney General Jim Hood filled a suit against Entergy alleging that subsidiaries of the company attempted to maximize profits by illegally manipulating the purchase and sale of electricity. Entergy has denied all claims in the lawsuit which is set to be heard in court this November.
The bill (SB 2285) was originally set to reauthorize the PSC, which Hood said everyone wanted, but an amendment was later added which would remove the authority to file a lawsuit from the AG’s office.
Hood says that the authority should remain with the AG because the PSC doesn’t have the power to hold companies accountable.
“The fact is, the PSC doesn’t have the authority that a court does; to issue punitive damages, to punish, to disgorge them of their ill-gotten gains. The PSC can order a refund but they can’t penalize them to deter that kind of activity,” he stated in a press conference last month.
Hood says that the inclusion of this amendment shows influence in the legislature from outside sources.
“It’s obvious that there’s money involved, it’s campaign contributions, it’s corporate power,” he said. “This is serious, this is $1 billion on the line. This is when payoffs happen, this is when bribery happens. I’m very concerned about these actions of these corporations over in our legislature controlling what they do.”
Hood says that if the bill is signed into law, the company could argue to dismiss the case and argue that the law is retroactive. After the passage of the bill, Entergy issued a statement and expressed their support for the bill.
“Our company has had our operations validated by the MPSC and unfairly maligned by the attorney general at the same time,” said Haley Fisackerly, Entergy Mississippi president and CEO. “Sadly, this discrepancy has resulted in a legal dispute that has taken away resources that our company otherwise could have invested in Mississippi and Mississippians, and exposed our customers to the potential of having to pay millions in unnecessary legal costs,” he continued. “SB 2295 provides a solution to this problem.”
The amendment was introduced in the committee stage, and Hood referred to the amendment as a “poison bill”. He went on to say that it is a dangerous bill for the people of Mississippi.
“Our supreme court will agree with me, the authority of the attorney general is clear,” Hood explained. “The people elect an attorney general to be independent and represent them. Not just the legislature, not just the court system, not just the executive branch, but the people. When the legislature is trying to run over the people, I’ve got a duty to stop that as well…They’re giving away the people’s money to corporations that stole it from us.”
The amendment was made in the House and adopted by the Senate. The bill will now go to the Governor’s desk.