SPARTANBURG COUNTY, S. C. — A legal action that involved Chappell, Smith & Arden attorneys Mark Chappell and Graham Newman was settled on June 2, 2022. The settlement involved SCANA Corp. shareholders and investors, who filed 2 lawsuits against V.C. Summer, a company involved in the construction of a nuclear power plant that was subsequently merged with Dominion Energy.
The $9 billion-dollar nuclear plant expansion imploded over the course of several years following supply chain problems, design flaws and budgetary issues. These problems were kept hidden from shareholders and investors until V.C. Summer decided to shelve the project in 2017.
That’s when the first lawsuit was filed by investors, which claimed that the SCANA executive team and board owed the shareholders damages for destroying the value of the utility company, which was previously South Carolina’s largest Fortune 500 Company.
A 2nd lawsuit was filed after Dominion took over SCANA in 2019. That 2nd lawsuit implied that Dominion paid substantially less for SCANA than it otherwise would have due to the misconduct of its leadership, which caused a drop in the company’s value and left shareholders holding the bag.
Not only were the SCANA board of directors named in each suit, but also named were former SCANA CEO Kevin Marsh, President Steve Byrn and CFO Jimmy Addison.
The $63 million settlement announced June 2 by Circuit Court Judge Mark Hayes comes following several years of legal maneuvering. According to The Post and Courier in Greenville, the $63 million settlement is to cover both the 2017 and 2019 lawsuits, with $33 million being awarded from the 2017 suit and $30 million covering the 2019 suit.
About one-third of the total will go to attorney fees, and the remaining $40 million will be divided between the shareholders based on how much stock each person owned. According to attorney Ellen Gusikoff Stewart, about 21,000 people are believed to be qualified to receive a share of the settlement.
Attorney Mark Chappell, who, along with Stewart, represented plaintiffs in the lawsuits, told The Post and Courier that the settlement reached is in the top 15 highest ever in a merger case.
“This case posed immense challenges both in legal complexity and the sheer endurance required to withstand the efforts of some of the best defense attorneys in the state and nation,” said attorney Graham Newman. “We are grateful for the faith placed in our law firm by the SCANA shareholders and are very happy to have, along with our co-counsel, achieved such a positive result on their behalf.”
The nuclear expansion project was begun over 10 years ago when SCANA worked with fellow utility Santee Cooper to add 2 new nuclear reactors to the single-reactor V.C. Summer plant in Fairfield County.
The expansion was expected to create thousands of new jobs and increase South Carolina’s capacity to produce power. But, as the lawsuits allege, SCANA leadership put forth an idealized version of the plan and its progress—even while behind the scenes, the project was hampered by the issues noted above.
Money to pay for the expansion project was to be raised by hiking South Carolinians’ electric bills—an action that won’t be reversed, which means electric customers will continue paying for the boondoggled project.