Friday, January 25, 2008, 1/25/2008 01:24:00 PM

Regulated Industries Day at Womble Trade Secrets - PUCO Interested in Duke's "Side Deals" for Corporate Customers

By Todd
The chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio wants to prohibit the kind of secret deals that Duke Energy signed in 2004 with several of its biggest corporate customers.

Proponents of side deals say they are a good way to resolve disputes and often can spur economic development by reducing costs to businesses. But opponents, such as the Ohio Consumers' Counsel, say the deals help one group of customers at the expense of others.
After years of staying out of the debate, Schriber said the commission now believes side deals are not good policy.

"We want to prohibit secret side deals," Schriber said.

One of his concerns is that terms of the deals typically are not made public. In the Duke case, hundreds of pages of documents are available but have been heavily redacted because the companies feared disclosure would jeopardize "trade secrets."

The names of company officials, the amount of individual payments and the length of the deals all have been hidden from public view.
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