Who is the CEO of FirstEnergy? Company to pay $230M fine for Ohio bribery case

Energy giant FirstEnergy agrees to massive fine in exchange for dropping of criminal case, exploring kickbacks to officials in return for subsidiaries


                            Who is the CEO of FirstEnergy? Company to pay $230M fine for Ohio bribery case
The FirstEnergy logo with an insert of current CEO Steven Strah (FirstEnergy website)

FirstEnergy, the Akron-based energy giant has agreed to cough up a massive $230M in fines, in exchange for prosecutors dropping a criminal case against the firm. The announcement was made on July 22 after prosecutors charged FirstEnergy with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, in exchange for subsidiaries on two aging nuclear plants. 

The corruption scandal, which included the Ohio House Speaker, emerged after H.B. 6 was passed in 2020. The massive fine comes weeks after Fox News was slapped with a historic $1M fine for violation of human rights. Other big companies are also facing consequences after being allowed to run free for years. Earlier, we reported that California was suing gaming giant Activision Blizzard for sexism and harassment in the workplace. In February, PornHub's parent company was sued by two individuals for hosting videos of sex trafficking victims. 

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While it is normal for companies to engage in lobbying, FirstEnergy's massive corruption scandal indicates just how serious corporate control of politics is. It is believed the company funneled $60M in bribes to pass H.B. 6, in a bid to get taxpayers to foot the bill for its plants. Now, the CEO has signed off on the deal, which leaves the company off the hook, under certain conditions. Wondering who the CEO is? Currently, the title belongs to Steven Strah.

FirstEnergy's HQ in Akron, Ohio (FirstEnergy/Twitter)

Who is the CEO of FirstEnergy?

In March 2021, Strah was appointed as the CEO of the company in a bid to transition away from the corruption scandal. Strah replaced Chuck Jones after Jones pleaded guilty in the bribery case. He was fired in October 2020, sparking an urgent transition as the company attempted to save face following the scandal. Strah was initially named acting CEO before the position was made permanent in 2021. 

An alumnus of Baldwin Wallace College in Ohio, Strah has a long history with FirstEnergy, but an even longer one in the energy industry. In 1984, he got his first gig with The Illuminating Company, another Akron-based energy company. In 2001, he was named president of the Northern Region for Jersey Central Power & Light. Both firms are subsidiaries of FirstEnergy. In 2005, he was promoted to regional president of Ohio Edison, another FirstEnergy subsidiary.

In 2011, Strah moved to the parent company as vice president, Distribution Support, for FirstEnergy Utilities. He then worked his way up to become the firm's Chief Financial Officer in 2018, before he was made interim CEO. Those roles have come with plenty of benefits, notably in wealth. Strah is estimated to have a net worth of around $10.5M, most of it from his stock investments. Wallmine reported he made around $6,034,130 as acting CEO. It is reported he owns over 71,720 units of FirstEnergy stock worth over $4,508,592. 

Bringing over 36 years of experience in the energy industry, Strah's leadership will be vital for FirstEnergy following the massive corruption scandal. 

CEO Steven Strah speaks to employees in a YouTube video. (FirstEnergy/YouTube)

FirstEnergy to cough up $230M

On July 22, FBI Special Agent in Charge Chris Hoffman said, "I hope that today’s announcement serves as a stern warning to other corporations and corporate executives who would sell their integrity to a public official." The company will reportedly pay $115M to the federal government, while the other half will go towards a program that helps Ohio’s regulated utility customers. A further $6M will be seized from the accounts of one of the dark money groups used by FirstEnergy. 

That's not all though. The company has agreed to make a public statement describing that it intentionally used dark money groups to hide the scheme. It will also have to make public any new corporate payments it’s aware of that were intended to influence a public official, Associated Press reported. As one of the largest investor-owned electric systems in the US, the fine is just a fraction of FirstEnergy's $10.8 billion annual revenue. Nonetheless, prosecutors are calling this a big win for the public.

The Ohio Attorney General’s office said the fine was the "largest criminal penalty" the office had collected. Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced that he would be donating all of the cash his campaign received from FirstEnergy over the years to the Boys and Girls Club but did not state what the amount was. 

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