The latest round of inquiries into Entergy Mississippi’s business practices could reach a resolution by the end of November.
Attorneys with the company and from the Mississippi Attorney General’s office laid out their cases last Monday in front of Hinds County Chancery Judge Dewayne Thomas.
Hood has sued Entergy over what he says is the company’s refusal to hand over 30 years’ worth of purchasing and billing records. Entergy has countered that compiling those millions of documents, while arduous, is possible and are available through the company’s filings with the Mississippi Public Service Commission.
Thomas is expected to rule on the case in late November. Until then, attorneys for both sides will file briefs with the court in advance of a possible ruling.
Last week’s chancery court hearing was made possible by an earlier decision from federal judge William Barbour, who ruled October 23 that Entergy could not block Hood’s attempts to subpoena the records.
“It is a shame that a company like Entergy, which serves hundreds of thousands of Mississippi ratepayers, would want to waste the court’s time attempting to hide records they should be proud to release if they did not exhibit self-dealing among Entergy subsidiaries,” Hood said in a press release.
The crux of Hood’s argument is a handful of cases in Louisiana and Texas, in which Entergy is accused of over-charging its customers and engaging in what Hood labeled “deceptive pricing schemes.” Two cases in Louisiana have already resulted in refunds to Entergy customers, totaling approximately $100 million, although findings of fact in each case revealed Entergy Mississippi committed no wrongdoing. A third case is pending.
Entergy Mississippi CEO Haley Fisackerly, in a press conference at the utility’s Jackson headquarters after last Monday’s hearing, said those cases “have no relevance to Mississippi.”
“When our company’s integrity is called into question it is time for me to stand up on behalf of our employees,” Fisackerly said. “We believe Mr. Hood’s charges are completely unfounded and completely untrue.”
Entergy’s response to Hood’s accusations has centered on the company’s quarterly filings with the MPSC. Every quarter the company is required by law to file fuel-cost adjustments with the Commission, called “riders,” that set the price of electricity the company will charge, based on fuel costs and other expenses. The filings for the third quarter of this year led to a series of hearings before commissioners that have yet to conclude. An independent auditor is scheduled to disclose his findings some time this month.
As for Hood’s demand that the company hand over three decades of billing records, Fisackerly said Entergy is willing to cooperate.
“We are more than happy to make that information available to the attorney general through the proper entity (the MPSC),” he said. “We do not need a duplicative process (for record-gathering). Our business practices are very complicated, and it’s not as easy as accessing computerized records. We need to be reasonable in these requests and work through proper channels.”
Fisackerly called the suggestion made by Hood’s lawyers during the chancery hearing that the company compile and file records one year at a time “a good first step.”
Contact MBJ staff writer Clay Chandler at clay.chandler@ msbusiness.com .