Duke Energy documents show hints of red flags of merger

by: Linzi Sheldon Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Newly released documents and emails from Duke Energy show hints of red flags before its merger with Progress Energy.

But the company is still fighting to keep the public from seeing hundreds more pages.

Some of the hundreds of documents are full of blank spaces marked "Notice of appeal."

It's information state regulators with the North Carolina Utilities Commission ordered Duke to release, but the company has now filed with the North Carolina Court of Appeals to keep the information private.

The documents include emails about its nuclear fleet, letters from CEO Jim Rogers to his board of directors, and board minutes, including almost all of them from the board meeting days before the companies' merger.

Immediately after, the Duke-heavy board voted to suddenly put Rogers back in the top spot, despite telling regulators all along that Progress CEO Bill Johnson would be CEO.

Some emails reveal the growing concern about the merger.

As early as spring of 2011, an email from Rogers describes perceived "arrogance" and a "lack of respect" from Progress, as well as a "clash of cultures."

This May, one Duke director called Progress's first-quarter earnings summary "the nicest description of a really lousy quarter" he had ever read.

State regulators requested the documents as part of an investigation to figure out if they were duped into approving the deal and whether the agreement was breached.

Duke officials said they intended for Johnson to serve as CEO over the newly-merged company for the long-run initially but lost faith in his leadership.

The emails also show the disbelief on the Progress side once Johnson was removed.

One director, Marie McKee, wrote she was "shocked and very concerned." Another said he felt the Progress directors "were ignored." Notes from the merger meeting show one Progress director asked to delay the vote on the switch, but that request was not granted.

One of the emails is the letter Johnson wrote to his former co-workers the morning after he was ousted, saying, "I certainly never expected it."

Duke Energy officials said Tuesday night that they expect the appeals process to move slowly. They said they are in ongoing potential settlement talks with the North Carolina Utilities Commission.