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$63M settlement ends 2 lawsuits by SCANA shareholders

scana settlement spartanburg

Attorney Mark Chappell addresses a Spartanburg County courtroom on June 2, 2022, during a hearing settling lawsuits brought by SCANA Corp. shareholders. Conor Hughes/Staff

SPARTANBURG — SCANA Corp. shareholders were awarded $63 million in a settlement related to the coverup of the failed V.C. Summer nuclear project and the company's subsequent merger with Dominion Energy.

The settlement concluded two lawsuits SCANA investors filed in the wake of the $9 billion debacle. The first, filed in 2017, asserted that the SCANA board and executive team owed the shareholders, as owners of the company, damages for tanking the value of the utility, previously South Carolina's largest Fortune 500 Company, through fraud.

The second suit was filed in 2019 in response to Dominion absorbing SCANA. That complaint alleged that the larger company paid far less for SCANA than it would have if not for the misconduct of its leadership, shortchanging the shareholders.

Both are part of a series of lawsuits that followed the collapse of the V.C. Summer nuclear project.

Defendants named in the suits include former SCANA CEO Kevin Marsh, CFO Jimmy Addison and president Steve Byrn, as well as members of the company's board of directors.

After several years of legal maneuvering, the suits both ended June 2 when Circuit Court Judge Mark Hayes approved the settlement at the Spartanburg County Courthouse.

Prior to the collapse of the nuclear project, SCANA was working with partner utility Santee Cooper in an effort to add two nuclear reactors to the one-reactor V.C. Summer plant in Fairfield County, a plan intended to create thousands of new jobs and expand South Carolina's ability to produce energy. But as leadership presented a rosy picture of the plan's progress and upped power bills to cover the cost, the project was dogged for years by supply chain problems, flaws in the design and budget issues.

Those problems were hidden until the project was abandoned in 2017. Electric customers will continue to pay for the failure through their power bills for decades.

In the class-action suits settled June 2, shareholders said SCANA leadership misled them about the health of the company through fraudulent means and undercut the value of their investments. 

Ellen Gusikoff Stewart, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs, said her firm had identified roughly 21,000 people eligible to receive a portion of the settlement. The process of distributing the funds will likely take months.

Of the $63 million, $33 million stems from the 2017 suit and the remaining $30 million comes from the 2019 complaint related to the merger with Dominion. One third of that will go toward attorney fees and the remaining $42 million will be divided among the shareholders, divvied up depending on how much stock each individual owned. 

Attorney Mark Chappell, representing the plaintiffs, said in court the settlement is among the top 15 highest ever in a merger case. 

Attorneys representing the plaintiffs determined it would be best to seek a settlement when it became clear that bringing the case to court would be a complex, drawn out and costly process. All parties involved agreed to a settlement about a year ago but the mediation process only concluded recently.

The hearing brought a crowd of attorneys to the Spartanburg County courtroom. The six attorneys representing the plaintiffs sat at one table while more than a dozen lawyers representing the defendants filled the other side of the room.

Before approving the terms of the settlement June 2, Judge Hayes said the lawsuits and subsequent proceedings were important in fleshing out the details in one of South Carolina's largest financial disasters.

"The factual questions as to what happened with the nuclear power plant, and SCANA being merged with Dominion, and what all happened in that series of events, needed to be asked," he said. "This lawsuit, and similar cases, needed to be brought for, if nothing else, to shed sunlight on these issues."

Follow Conor Hughes on Twitter at @ConorJHughes.

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