FPL's parent company has hired an independent investigator to look into allegations that some utility workers were asked to manipulate data and provide inaccurate information to regulators about the company's proposed rate hike.
In a letter e-mailed to company employees Monday, FPL Group Chairman Lew Hay detailed the investigation into the allegations contained in a letter sent anonymously last week to him by one or more people claiming to be Florida Power & Light employees.
The letter — also sent to FPL Group board members and the Public Service Commission — said employees "were directed or instructed to create, draft and manipulate facts, data and information" about the rate increase proposal and present "incomplete or inaccurate" information on other projects.
Hay urged company employees to call the Carlton Fields law firm's Miami office with any evidence of FPL Group employees providing false or misleading information. He said the company concluded a "broad investigation" into claims made in response to a similar letter dated Jan. 20 that alleged certain utility leaders damaged the company's credibility in the community by misinforming customers and regulators.
"Approximately 150 confidential interviews were conducted with relevant FPL employees," Hay wrote. "These employees were informed that the company would not take negative action against anyone who honestly and forthrightly raised legitimate concerns. The investigators and employees interviewed have identified no evidence supporting any of the generalized claims made in the anonymous letter."
The PSC, which rejected all but 6 percent of the utility's request for a $1.27 billion increase on Jan. 13, posted both letters on its website Monday but hasn't yet decided whether to investigate, officials said. PSC Chairman Nancy Argenziano called for the agency and the Attorney General's office to investigate and if possible, provide the employees with immunity. "My position is if we have been lied to and/or given fraudulent information, then we have to know about that," she said, adding that if the inquiry finds the information is wrong and was simply submitted "by disgruntled employees, the company has nothing to worry about."
Hay said FPL Group's Review Board — General Counsel Charles Sieving, Chief Financial Officer Armando Pimentel, Executive Vice President of Human Resources Jim Poppell and Vice President of Internal Auditing Maria Fogarty — recommended hiring an independent firm to tackle allegations in the second letter, dated Feb. 3.
"FPL Group is committed to providing accurate information at all times to government agencies, investors and the public at large, and will not tolerate anything less," Hay wrote. "We do not condone the conduct alleged in the anonymous letters, but we cannot address unsupported and unsubstantiated claims."
Hay urged FPL Group's roughly 15,000 employees to speak up promptly if they believe they have any evidence of wrongdoing.
Julie Patel can be reached at 954-356-4667 and jpatel@SunSentinel.com.