Customers become audience as Hood takes on Entergy

A problem for Hood, in his second term and now the lone Democrat elected to statewide office, is that some of the higher-profile attorneys who have been hired by him and by Mike Moore, his predecessor, have confessed corruption in unrelated cases and are now doing hard time instead of enjoying the tens of millions they received by virtue of winning billions (yes, billions) for the state treasury.

That, plus the fact that two of them, Richard “Dickie” Scruggs and Joey Langston, were campaign ATMs for Moore or Hood or both adds an “icky lawyers, they’re scum” element to the story.

It’s also a point Entergy is pressing in defense of its sanctity as an open, honorable, fair-dealing, investor-owned public utility.

Further, Entergy Mississippi President Haley Fisackerly says, the allegations of fraudulently inflating rates plus harsh statements and demands being made by the Mississippi Public Service Commission, may cause investors to become skittish and lenders who finance fuel purchases to charge more. The net effect of a populist politician seeking to curry public favor by trashing their company, they imply, may be to make electricity more expensive for the Joe Paychecks for whom Hood says he’s working.

Other state officials try to stay away from such frays. But they sure don’t mind spending the money the cases generate, including Scruggs’ 1997 settlement with Big Tobacco that is to provide up to $4 billion. The MCI back taxes cases Langston settled in 2005 netted the Legislature $34 million just in time to pay off the loan guarantees made in its famous beef plant misadventure.

Hood, however, goes into orbit when he reads Entergy’s press releases about the case.

“Please don’t let this be reduced to some thing about lawyers and fees,” he said, adding that none of the private attorneys or expert witnesses in the Entergy case have donated to him in any way, shape or form.

He said the contract with Mobile attorney Vincent Kilborn is a public record. The case, Hood said, will cost at least $2 million to pursue, which his office doesn’t have and the Legislature will not allocate.

Fees for expert data analysis are hundreds of dollars per hour and the attorneys will net from 14 percent to 25 percent, depending on how far the case goes. If there’s a whopper verdict, the 25 percent figure declines, he said.

Entergy has retained a Jackson firm to work with in-house counsel. The case was filed in state court, moved by Entergy to federal court and Hood said he will seek to have it moved back to state court.

Unless something unexpected happens, there will be no decision for about three years.

To say the meat of the issue is complex is an understatement.

Charlie Mitchell
NE MS Daily Journal
3/3/9