Federal judge approves further delay in releasing information about lobbying work by law firm House Bill 6

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A federal bankruptcy judge on Tuesday gave a major law firm until October to provide information on the firm’s lobbying work on behalf of Energy Harbor to help pass Bill 6 , as well as other activities surrounding a $ 60 million corruption scandal.

However, an Energy Harbor lawyer predicted that they wouldn’t need more time than that to reveal the information – which has already been collected and signed off – as the company’s efforts to provide the information to the office of the US prosecutor’s office on the HB6 scandal have “significantly” progressed.

Lawyer Jonathan Streeter told US bankruptcy court judge Alan Koschik that Energy Harbor believed such information should not be made public until the US attorney’s office could “obtain the information. he wishes ”.

Koschik ultimately granted Energy Harbor’s request for the postponement and scheduled a hearing for October 26.

The judge plans to award Washington, DC-based Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP the last $ 1.2 million of the approximately $ 68 million in fees and expenses he billed to FirstEnergy Solutions, which s renamed Energy Harbor after coming out of bankruptcy last year. .

Ohio House President Larry Householder and several allies were arrested last year and charged with racketeering for using $ 60 million in FirstEnergy money to secure the passage of HB6 – which included a bailout of more than $ 1 billion taxpayer dollars from Davis-Besse and Perry power plants, owned by FirstEnergy Solutions / Energy Harbor. Federal prosecutors described it as the largest corruption program in Ohio history.

So far, no one from FirstEnergy, Energy Harbor or Akin Gump has been charged with wrongdoing in connection with the scandal. However, Koschik previously wrote that there is an apparent “connection” between Akin Gump’s Ohio Statehouse team and the individuals and entities indicted in the HB6 scandal.

The court’s questions to Akin Gump lobbyists Sean G. D’Arcy, Henry A. Terhune, James R. Tucker and Geoffrey K. Verhoff include their roles in getting Householder, a Republican from Perry County, elected president Ohio House in 2019 and their lobbying efforts to switch to HB6 later that year.

Koschik asked the four whether they or other Akin Gump employees had informed FirstEnergy Solutions officials of any interaction with Juan Cespedes, a former FirstEnergy lobbyist who pleaded guilty to his role in the bribery scheme. The judge also asked whether Akin Gump employees informed FirstEnergy Solutions of a payment of $ 1,879,457 made in July 2019 to Generation Now, the black money group that also pleaded guilty to helping distribute FirstEnergy money.

The judge also asked for an explanation of some sentences on D’Arcy’s time entries, including a mention of a “Columbus deployment” in October 2018, “past efforts” in September 2018, and “parental developments” in August. 2018. The time the entries were submitted to court as part of Akin Gump’s invoices for the legal work she performed for FirstEnergy Solutions.

Even though government prosecutors did not object to the final payment of the $ 1.2 million to Akin Gump, Koschik said last November that he “remains concerned about the value provided to [Akin Gump] as part of their lobbying work at the state level of Ohio, in light of the apparently expanding federal, civil and criminal investigations into the adoption of HB 6. “

Abid Qureshi, a partner at Akin Gump, told Koschik on Tuesday that the four law firm lobbyists had already signed statements on the judge’s questions in January.

“We are ready, willing and able to submit them whenever the court decides they need to be submitted,” Qureshi said.

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