NCUC finds Duke/Progress ‘trade secret’ claims lacking

The North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC) has concluded that much of the paperwork Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK) has tried to keep confidential in connection to its Progress Energy merger should not be considered a trade secret after all.

In an Oct. 19 order, NCUC said that more than 2,900 pages of material Duke called confidential, actually “contain no trade secret information that is exempt from public disclosure, and 1,432 pages contain only partial trade secret information that is exempt from public disclosure.”

As a result, Duke will have to make much of this paperwork publicly available effective Oct. 29, the NCUC held. A Duke spokesperson said the company is reviewing the order.

The NCUC said it is not convinced that many of the documents at issue should be considered a trade secret. “With regard to those documents, the Commission is not persuaded that any person or business would benefit economically from the disclosure of the information,” the NCUC ruled.

“In the Applicants’ future filings in this and all dockets, the Commission expects the Applicants to be more forthright in their assertions as to what documents in fact contain confidential information,” NCUC said.

The commission ordered that Duke must file by Oct. 29 reclassified documents as “invalid” trade secret claims or only partly-legitimate trade secret claims.

Duke and Progress shall be allowed to redact all personal telephone numbers and email addresses, the NCUC said.

“In summary, the Applicants filed 5,033 pages of documents under seal as confidential,” NCUC said. But NCUC’s review determined that only 672 pages contain information “that is fully exempt from public disclosure” under a trade secret provision.

“Thus, only 13.35 percent of the pages marked confidential by the Applicants were found to fully comply with the trade secret confidentially requirements.”

The North Carolina commission launched an investigation of the Duke/Progress merger this summer.

NCUC was caught off-guard after the official they expected to be CEO of the combined company, former Progress CEO Bill Johnson, was forced to resign only hours after the two companies consummated their long-awaited merger in July.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.