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US: Duke Energy agrees to $600000 settlement of federal antitrust lawsuit

 |  January 18, 2017

Duke Energy will pay a $600,000 fine to settle a federal antitrust lawsuit over its purchase of a Florida power plant, according to court documents filed Wednesday.

Duke admitted no wrongdoing and depicted the case as a technical violation involving its $166 million purchase of a merchant plant in Auburndale, Fla., owned by electricity wholesaler Calpine.

The lawsuit filed by the Justice Department’s antitrust division accused Duke of violating the Hart-Scott-Rodino antitrust act.

The law requires purchasers to notify the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission and wait for federal review to ensure that acquisitions don’t dampen market competition in a way that could hurt consumers.

Duke and Calpine agreed to the sale in August 2014. Duke took control of the power plant, called the Osprey Energy Center, before the federal review was done or the sale closed, the lawsuit says. Duke didn’t complete the acquisition until Jan. 3.

The Justice Department said Duke should have sought Federal Trade Commission review of the acquisition four months earlier than it did in January 2015. The earlier date was when Duke signed a separate contract to buy energy from the plant during the review period.

Duke maintains in a statement that it sought FTC approval on the correct date, in line with the way the law was “widely interpreted” by most companies.

The lawsuit says Duke and Calpine expected the acquisition would fail a separate Federal Energy Regulatory Commission review of how much the acquisition would increase Duke’s market share. After taking immediate control, it says, Duke argued to FERC that the deal posed no competitive threats because Duke already ran the plant.

Full Content: Charlotte Observer

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