Shareholder Files Suit Alleging Duke Energy Withheld Information on Coal Ash

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (The Charlotte Observer/TNS) -

A Duke Energy shareholder alleges in a federal lawsuit that the Charlotte company misled shareholders during the election of Duke board members by failing to disclose important facts about the company’s 2014 coal-ash spill.

Plaintiff E.F. Greenberg filed the lawsuit against several members of Duke’s Board of Directors last week with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina.

The lawsuit states that the company’s proxy statement omitted some information, “depriving Duke shareholders of material information that a reasonable shareholder would consider important in casting a vote as to certain matters referred to in the Proxy Statement.”

Duke denies the allegations. “Duke Energy’s 2015 Proxy Statement was accurate and complete. The company strongly disagrees with the lawsuit’s allegations,” the company said in a statement.

The complaint centers on a May 14 hearing in which Duke agreed to pay a $102 million criminal penalty over years of pollution leaking from coal-ash dumps at five North Carolina power plants. The criminal charges stemmed from Duke’s 2014 coal-ash spill into the Dan River.

The May 14 hearing came one week after Duke’s annual shareholders’ meeting, in which its board was reelected. The lawsuit contends that the hearing shed light on several factual admissions that Duke had made months earlier, but had not disclosed prior to the voting on the board members.

“Duke’s admissions establish that the environmental crimes to which Duke had pled guilty resulted largely from indifference, at Duke’s highest levels, to known environmental risks of which Duke’s management had been warned and was on notice of for years, and in some instances, decades,” the lawsuit states.

Greenberg is represented by Scott C. Harris of Whitfield Bryson & Mason L.L.P.