Mixed feelings & strong words mark SCANA shareholder mtg to approve merger

About a couple dozen shareholders took a podium inside the meeting to let their concerns be heard and spoke directly to the executives seated in the front of the room.

"You need your damn heads examined for what happened," retired SCANA employee and shareholder Johnny Shealy said to staff, remarking on his disapproval of the abandoned nuclear reactors and charges on customers ever since.

"It's a slap in the face of every employee out there and every ratepayer. We're going to continue to pay for that failure and they're going to continue to get money for that failure, and how is that right?" SCANA shareholder Herbie Meetz said ahead of the vote on whether executives should profit from the merger.

"It makes me feel like you're morally bankrupt," shareholder, customer, and former SCANA employee Miriam Mitchell said.

Later, shareholders spoke to WIS-TV outside of the meeting. Several explained how they voted. Shealy said he voted for the merger, but against the compensation for executives. Meetz said he voted 'no' to both items, and so did Mitchell.

“Well, I voted for the merger. I felt like I really didn’t have a choice. I did it because I feel like I did it for the people of South Carolina," Shealy explained. “But we need answers. We did not get the answers that we needed today.”

One recurring question asked by shareholders, is 'what will be the fate of SCANA without the merger with Dominion Energy?' To that, SCANA staff answered it would be a Board decision.

"They probably don’t want to talk to me at this point because I made such bad comments about them, but it’s reality...and they need to wake up and smell the roses," Mitchell expressed to WIS-TV.

The measure to allow compensation in the form of a 'golden parachute' for executives in the merger deal - if top staff members are removed, retire or make considerably less money under the merger deal - failed. However, the vote was non-binding; so, ultimately the outcome was merely the advice of the shareholders.

"If they even think about the compensation they ought to be terminated. I feel like it’s unconscionable that they even put that on the proxy," said Mitchell.

Ultimately, shareholders said they wished there could be a vote once more information is released. Documents are expected to be filed with the Public Service Commission (PSC) on Thursday.

"A lot of people, a lot of these employees and former employees and retirees feel that there’s no other way for them to have a life or retirement unless this thing is approved because they don’t see what’s going to happen if Dominion doesn’t takeover SCE&G… then what? That’s what they’re looking at...and we don’t know. We don’t know, 'then what?'" Meetz said.

Dominion Energy says the merger would benefit electric customers. The company has been advertising rebates of an average of $1,000 in cash to customers, should the deal go through. Dominion, however, has been against the 15% temporary rate decrease legislators passed into law. Meetz is skeptical, because of that.

"I don’t think it’s a sweet deal if the customers have to continue to pay on this thing for years and years, I mean 10, 15, 20 years. How is that good? I mean, you’re going to give me $1,000 and you’re going to stick it to me for the next 10 to 15 years?” he said.

The shareholder call took place in Columbia, where a few people stood outside in protest of the approval. 

"We are pleased with the approval from our shareholders," said Maybank Hagood, SCANA's Chairman of the Board of Directors.  "We believe the merger with Dominion Energy offers the most comprehensive solution for our customers and aligns SCANA with a company that mirrors our commitment to delivering safe and reliable energy."

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the proposed merger on July 13. The deal has also been approved by the Georgia Public Service Commission and the Federal Trade Commission terminated their 30-day waiting period under the Hart-Scott Rodina Antitrust Improvement Act. Additional approvals of the merger include the Public Service Commission of South Carolina and North Carolina and authorization of the Nuclear Regulatory Commision, in addition to other conditions.  There could be a PSC meeting as soon as Nov. 1 to determine that.

The troubled utility needed a hand after the V.C. Summer nuclear plant failed in August 2017, leaving thousands jobless. SCE&G, the utility owned by SCANA, and Santee Cooper, another South Carolina utility who owned 45 percent of the project, both aborted the V.C. Summer project a few months after contractor Westinghouse filed for bankruptcy. 

MORE: 'It basically made this place a ghost town:' Former employee visits on nuclear fallout anniversary

This is a developing story; check back for more updates. 

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