* Just remember that anyone can sue anyone for just about anything, but this may leave a mark…
Earlier today, a putative class of Commonwealth Edison customers filed a civil racketeering lawsuit against Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan, Commonwealth Edison Company (“ComEd”), ComEd’s parent Exelon Corporation, and several other defendants.
Stuart Chanen and Ariel Olstein of Chanen & Olstein; Patrick Giordano of Giordano & Associates, Ltd.; and Paul G. Neilan of The Law Offices of Paul G. Neilan, P.C., all Chicago-area lawyers, filed a two-count class action Complaint in federal court under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”), Potter et al. v. Madigan et al., 20 cv 4675, Dkt. 1 (N.D. Ill. Aug. 10, 2020).
The lawsuit, a copy of which is attached, alleges one count of racketeering under RICO’s civil provisions and one count of RICO conspiracy. The lawsuit asks for the following relief for ComEd’s consumers:
1. Payment by Defendants of at least $450 million in damages to ComEd consumers, including the $150 million in ill-gotten gains ComEd has admitted to and an additional $300 million under the RICO Act’s treble damages provision.
2. Immediate injunctive relief preventing Michael Madigan from participating in legislative activities involving electricity matters affecting Commonwealth Edison and Exelon.
3. Immediate injunctive relief preventing Michael Madigan from continuing to Chair the Democratic Party of Illinois and running it as a corrupt organization.
4. Additional injunctive relief enjoining ComEd from continuing to charge consumers for subsidies of Exelon-owned nuclear power plants.
Attorney Stuart Chanen, a former Assistant U.S. Attorney who in private practice has won major civil rights cases on behalf of wrongfully convicted individuals, said: “We filed our civil RICO case now to protect Illinois ratepayers from further damage by Michael Madigan – in both his capacity as Speaker and as Chair of the Democratic Party of Illinois – and also to get our clients back the damages they have suffered from ComEd’s and Madigan’s bribery scheme.”
Mr. Chanen pointed out that neither the U.S.’s July 17 federal criminal case against ComEd, nor the fact that Madigan has not yet been included in that case, prohibit ComEd customers from obtaining injunctive relief against Madigan or from pursuing damages against ComEd in a civil RICO action.
In addition to Michael Madigan, among the prominent figures named as Defendants, are: former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore; former ComEd EVP John Hooker; former ComEd SVP Fidel Marquez; Jay Doherty, the longtime President of the City Club of Chicago; and former City of Chicago Alderman Michael R. Zalewski.
In crafting the Complaint, Plaintiffs’ lawyers rely heavily on the admissions ComEd had already made in its Deferred Prosecution Agreement with U.S. Attorney John Lausch. ComEd’s admissions strongly implicated all of the Defendants. The Complaint puts particular emphasis on ComEd’s admission that it profited from the bribery scheme in excess of $150 million.
Because ComEd admitted the over $150 million bonanza and because the RICO statute specifically includes a treble damages award to punish racketeers, Attorney Patrick Giordano said that ComEd should carefully consider this choice: “Pay back the $150 million to ratepayers now or pay a joint and several $450 million judgment down the road.”
This case is not these lawyers’ first battle with ComEd. Attorney Patrick Giordano has 40 years of experience in litigation against ComEd and has won over $3 billion in refunds and rate reductions for consumers. Paul Neilan has twenty years of experience litigating against ComEd, including a 2013 lawsuit in Cook County challenging one of the very statutes, the Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act (“EIMA”), which we now know was procured through a bribery scheme. Mr. Chanen was co-counsel with Mr. Neilan in that case, Hawkins v. Commonwealth Edison Company, 2015 IL App (1st) 133678.
Mr. Neilan summed up matters this way: “Back then, our clients were the lone wolves crying foul. We knew that EIMA was bad for the ratepayers and obliterated any true regulation of ComEd as a utility. We also knew that Speaker Madigan had crammed the legislation through the General Assembly – we just didn’t know then that he did so as payback for numerous bribes ComEd had paid to his associates. But we know it now.”
No hearing date has been set in this case.
Some bold claims there.
The complaint is here.
*** UPDATE *** ComEd responded to Center Square…
“We apologize for the past conduct that did not live up to our values and have made significant improvements to our compliance practices to ensure that nothing like it ever happens again,” said ComEd Vice President of Communications Paul Elsberg. “The improper conduct described in the deferred prosecution agreement, however, does not mean that consumers were harmed by the legislation that was passed in Illinois.”
“The DPA makes no such allegations, and in fact the bipartisan legislation resulted in substantial benefits for ComEd’s customers, including 70 percent improved reliability since 2012 and billions of dollars in savings for customers, while residential customers’ bills are lower than they were nearly a decade ago and ComEd recently requested a third delivery rate decrease in a row, its fifth in 10 years,” Elsberg said. “ComEd has made some of the largest improvements in service at the best value of any utility serving a U.S. major metro area. This in no way excuses the conduct described in the DPA, but that is a distinct issue from the effect of the legislation for ComEd’s customers.”
“We filed our civil RICO case now to protect Illinois ratepayers from further damage by Michael Madigan – in both his capacity as Speaker and as Chair of the Democratic Party of Illinois – and also to get our clients back the damages they have suffered from ComEd’s and Madigan’s bribery scheme,” said attorney Stuart Chanen.