On behalf of Oregon's Public Utility Commission, the state Justice Department sent letters to 18 parties who had access to information ruled confidential by the commission about the deal when it was alive.In January, two months before the PUC nixed the $2.35 billion Texas Pacific purchase, WW published documents that contradicted Texas Pacific's public statements about running PGE (see "The PGE Papers," Jan. 5, 2005).
The documents revealed that Texas Pacific had privately concluded PGE was poorly run and that Texas Pacific could easily lay off hundreds of PGE employees, make more than a billion dollars in five years and probably sell PGE to another utility.
The letter last week from Senior Assistant Attorney General Tim Nord seeks a voluntary confession. If that doesn't happen, Nord promises to proceed with subpoenas and interviews in an investigation that he called "an expense and burden, brought about by the unlawful actions of a minority of the participants." (WW has not received a letter.)
Asked why to spend taxpayer money on chasing down a leak from a group that includes industry organizations, watchdog organizations and other utilities, Nord and PUC spokesman Bob Valdez cited a need to protect the integrity of future cases by safeguarding the disclosure and review of "sensitive" materials. The commission could not immediately estimate how much the probe has, or could, cost.
Among the potential sanctions are a $10,000 fine per violation of the confidentiality order.
"We take this leak very seriously," Valdez says. "But it might prove difficult to correct."