Class-action certified in 2008 rebate case against Duke Energy Corp.

Attorney: Damages could reach $1 billion

CINCINNATI - A federal judge in Columbus has certified a class action lawsuit against Duke Energy Corp. in a 2008 case that accused the utility of giving improper rebates to its largest customers.

Plaintiff attorneys claim the case could produce more than $1 billion in damages against Duke. The utility maintains the lawsuit has no merit.

“We do not comment on pending litigation but we do intend to defend this case fully,” Duke spokesman Blair Schroeder said.

The case involves at least $73 million in rebates paid to 24 of Duke’s biggest customers between 2005 and 2008.

Plaintiff attorneys claim the rebates were unlawful kickbacks to customers who dropped their opposition to rate hikes. That allowed Duke’s predecessor, Cinergy Corp., to secure regulatory approval for its 2004 “rate stabilization plan,” which included rate increases for residential and business customers.

Duke has defended the rebates as legitimate option contracts designed to keep its largest customers loyal as Ohio welcomed new energy providers to compete against Duke and other utilities.

WCPO Insiders can find out what local companies got the biggest rebates and read an internal Duke memo that explains why the rebates were granted.

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