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DukeEmployees.com - Duke Energy Employee Advocate

Noon Rebuttal - Page 4 - 2003

Noon Rebuttal - December 2003

Employee Advocate - DukeEmployees.com - December 24, 2003

President and Chief Operating Officer Fred Fowler hosted the Noon Meeting, on December 8, 2003.

Fred Fowler said "Paul Anderson has been very busy in the five short weeks he's been on board. He's held a number of employee meetings and has been speaking one-on-one with key leaders within the organization, as well as investors and other external stakeholders.

"Paul is a quick study, and he's begun the work of putting together a leadership team that aligns with his goals and objectives for the company."

Mr. Fowler mentioned that CFO Robert Brace had resigned. It looks like www.TheStreet.com called another one on the money: “Some people believe that CFO Robert Brace already has one foot out the door.”

Duke's Brass Bracing for the Broom

Mr. Fowler said “Following high hopes and lots of promising momentum, the long-awaited energy bill hit an impasse and has been deferred to next year.”

High hopes? Promising Momentum? Long-awaited energy bill? The long-dreaded, pork-laden energy bill would be more like it! The corporations that have bought themselves a chunk of pork are the only ones in favor of this legislative monstrosity.

Spending Money 'Like a Drunken Sailor'

The Patriot Project Pipeline was placed into service November 20, 2003. This is distressing news for many of the people living near it.

Duke Allowed to Seize Land

A question was asked about why the number of company “officers appears to continually increase.”

Mr. Fowler said that several officer positions were eliminated last year. He said that the “most recent downsizing was very much focused at the management and officer level.” He indicated that more changes are expected.

It’s about time!

It was asked if there were plans to sell Duke Power.

While never saying that it was impossible, Mr. Fowler did say “I would see the regulated power company as one of the core assets of the company -- for as far into the future as I can see.”

Someone asked “Why did no one recognize at the time that merchant generation was being overbuilt?”

Mr. Fowler covered the Enron meltdown, and how quickly it came about.

You have to understand that merchant energy, energy trading, derivatives trading, and exploiting deregulation were all heavily promoted by the former CEO. He was obsessed with these endeavors and their potential windfall of profits. He even saw Enron as a company to emulate!

Can you imagine any other office telling him that he was nuts, and the projects were doomed to failure? Rather than admitting problems, officers tried to spin doctor them away. They only succeeded in making themselves look inept and foolish.

One might think that the Enron disaster might have given some clue as to what was to follow. But even that momentous event went unheeded. The former CEO even tried to put a blase spin on the implosion of Enron! He even saw it as a good opportunity for Duke to acquire Enron assets. Duke was poised to become the new Enron.

Here is the former CEO’s assessment of the Enron failure, from the March 2002 Noon Report: “Enron--a single player involved in one out of every four online energy trades in the country--vanished from the scene and the markets didn’t miss a beat.

Mr. Fowler said “We continue to analyze where we made mistakes…”

Getting executives to admit making any mistake is like pulling teeth. Occasionally, one of them will begrudgingly make a fleeting admission to the obvious.

Mr. Fowler added “But the major focus today is on what we do now to get things right.”

This provides a great excuse for avoiding any mention of the many serious mistakes made by senior management. They cannot speak of the mistakes; they are too busy getting “things right.” This is the very mindset the caused the disasters in the first place. It shows an unwillingness to admit obvious problems. It shows an attempt to put a positive spin on every event.

The next question concerns executive rewards, as the company sinks; conflict of interest; and the short timeframe for executive rewards.

Mr. Fowler mentioned that the rewards received one year may be for previous years. Outside consultants and benchmarks were offered as the answer to any questions about executive compensation.

Outside consultants are just like the compensation committee – they are all in one big cabala. It is friends helping friends. No one ever says that executive compensation needs to be cut. They always looks for ways to make sure that no one else is getting any more compensation!

Do you think that any consultant ever said “If you did not lavish so much wealth on executives, you would not have to rob employees of their pensions.” Not a chance! Management consultants always looks for more ways to give to executives and take from employees.

The questions below were sent in by e-mail, and were answered anonymously:

The Duke Energy, IBM, and Xerox Cash Balance Plans

An employees asks about the courts cash balance plan ruling against Xerox and IBM. Similarities between the Duke cash balance plan and the plans of IBM and Xerox were noted.

This is the one question that Duke executives hoped that they would never hear! It’s time to break out the dancing shoes!

The answer mentioned the “protected benefit.” The very existence of a protected benefit is proof that someone is getting ripped off! If the cash balance plan could only add retirement money to your account, a protected benefit would be unnecessary. Only if the cash balance plan can take money away from you, would you need a protected amount. The Duke cash balance plan does take retirement money from employees. Some employees lose half of their pension immediately upon conversion to a cash balance plan. All the protected amount does is keep you from being totally devastated.

If you work for a number of years under a cash balance plan and end up getting only the protected amount, you have lost all the appreciation since the conversion! For you, it would be exactly the same as if the plan had been terminated instead of converted to a cash balance plan.

It’s not the same for the company. If the plan were terminated, the IRS would collect 50 percent of any windfall received by the company. With a cash balance plan, the pension is effectively terminated for some employees, but the company slides out of paying the IRS anything! That is the “magic” of cash balance plans for corporations. This is exactly what they were designed to do – evade pension law.

Not only has a federal court declared the IBM cash balance plan to be illegal and age discriminatory, but Xerox has lost all appeals. Xerox has offered to make a settlement with the wronged employees. The Xerox lawsuit involved low-ball payouts. The IBM lawsuit address the age discrimination issue.

Congress has also taken note of the injustice of cash balance plans. Congress has forbidden the Bush administration from effectively nullifying the court ruling. Congress has also required G. W. Bush to propose legislation to make restitution to older workers who lost pension benefits because of cash balance plan conversions! Does that pretty much sound like the jig is up?

All the lies told about cash balance plans are recognized to be lies. It was the conversion to a cash balance plan that started Duke Energy on the road to disaster. Since that day, everything else has led to failure. But Duke still does not want to come clean. With a 100-year tradition of stonewalling, who would expect anything different? Duke will never let loose of the money until it is blasted loose! Lock and load.

Part of the Duke answer was: “The IRS has previously issued proposed regulations concerning cash balance plans which indicate that cash balance plans are not inherently age discriminatory.”

That statement is 100 percent true. It is also 100 percent meaningless!

One could argue that a .44 magnum is not a deadly weapon if it is not loaded. If the pistol were unloaded, and tucked safely out of the reach of unpredictable humans, it would be harmless. But loaded and in the hands of a human, it is extremely deadly. So, what does the argument that it is not inherently a deadly weapon prove? It proves absolutely nothing!

Humans will do what is necessary to get what they want out of anything. That goes for .44 magnums and cash balance plans. Just a the pistol was designed to kill, cash balance plans were designed to kill any chance of employees receiving the pensions that they earned over their lifetimes!

Just because a cash balance plan conversion could be implemented to be fair to all employees, means nothing. The plans were designed to take pension money from employees, and that is what the majority of the plans do.

If the plan has a wear away period or if a protected amount is necessary, the conversion was designed to take pension money from employees. It is that simple. If employees did not lose money, there would be no wear away period. If employees did no lose money, the cash balance amount would never have to be compared to a protected amount – it would always be greater!

No one ever starts a cash balance plan from scratch. There would be no point in it. Cash balance plans were craftily designed to take pension money from employees that had already been earned. The money is lost in the conversion. That is where the early retirement subsidy is lost. Any other reasons are inconsequential. The consulting firm sold these plans to “save” corporations money. The money is “saved” by taking it from the pension fund.

Duke’s position is: “While we continue to monitor the situation, we are not planning to change the formula under the Duke Energy Retirement Cash Balance Plan.”

Sure, the executives are not planning on making any changes. But what if it comes down to two choices? Between amending an illegal plan or prison time, what do you think Duke will do? Duke is used to throwing its weight around. But Duke does not outweigh the federal courts and Congress. The best Duke can do is to send out ranks of lobbyists to beg and plead.

Part of the Duke answer was: “We do not have sufficient information to comment about the IBM or Xerox plans.”

That is understandable, since the executives have yet to tell the truth about their own cash balance plan!

Supreme Court Pension Win

Congress Zeros In On Cash Balance Plans

When Pension Lies Crumble

Xerox Offers Cash Balance Pension Settlement

Xerox Employees Win Pension Lawsuit!

IBM Employees Win Pension Lawsuit!

An employee asked about the HMO annual out-of-pocket maximum.

They found out that there is no annual HMO out-of-pocket maximum for 2004! Chisel away a little here, and chisel away a little there. No one will ever notice. When one gets cheap rates, one is getting less. Much like cash balance plans, HMO’s were designed to evade accountability under present law.

A HMO is great, unless you happen to actually need it. If you are in a HMO, try not to get hurt; try not to get sick.


Noon Rebuttal - November 2003

Employee Advocate - DukeEmployees.com - November 28, 2003

New Chairman and CEO Paul Anderson hosted the Noon Meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina. It was held on November 10.

The capacity of the auditorium is 300. About 800 employees came to hear Mr. Anderson speak. The overflow of employees were able to watch the meeting on closed-circuit TV.

At an earlier meeting in Houston, employees filled the cafeteria to capacity, as other watched on closed-circuit TV. Mr. Anderson is going to conduce more meetings in other cities.

This could be more aptly entitled “The Noon Concurrence.” As long as one tells the truth, there is nothing to rebut.

Paul Anderson started off by admitting the challenges faced by the company. By doing this, he does not have to waste energy trying to deny the elephant in the room. He did not cause the problems; he was brought in to fix them.

He admitted that he does not have all of the answers yet. That’s all he had to say. Trying to fake it never works out. And who expects him to have all the answers in a few weeks time?

Mr. Anderson did say “I do plan to have a lot more answers by the end of the year, and I'll guarantee you that I'll communicate decisions and direction to you honestly and as soon as possible.”

He added “My challenge will be to restore confidence amongst employees, investors, the communities in which we operate, and the regulators. I realize that in doing so, it's going to be actions that speak – not words. I can say everything you might want to hear, and everything people might think is appropriate, but it's not really going to make a difference. You're going to be looking at what I do, not what I say.”

The questions below were sent in by e-mail. They were answered by unknown parties:

United Way Match?

An employee asked if the company could afford the dollar-for-dollar match it will spend this year on the United Way Campaign, considering the current financial problems.

The answer, in part: “The matching funds and corporate contributions that Duke Energy makes to the United Way are paid from the Duke Energy Foundation budget, which is funded separately from Duke Energy. The Foundation's budget is set in advance, and those dollars are designated for non-profit, community service needs… We cannot – and would not – divert those dollars back into Duke Energy's business operations.”

But what if someone donates 50 bazillion dollars; would the match not bankrupt Duke? You should know by now that Duke never enters an agreement without an escape clause – or an ejection seat. The match is not one for one, it is one for three. Duke matches three dollars with one dollar. Not only that, but there is a cap of $250,000 on the total corporate contribution, according to www.ncat.org.

Duke does not go to any great effort to make the mechanics of its charitable efforts clear to employees or the public. People see headlines, such as, “Duke is Dying – Must Lay Off Thousands.” And, on the next page, they see “Duke Gives Away Millions.” Is it any wonder that something seems fishy?

Duke’s charitable endeavors go back at least to 1924, according to DukeEndowment.org. James Buchanan Duke created the Duke Endowment that year, with a gift of $40 million. It turned out that Mr. Duke would not be needing the money anyway; he died in 1925. His will left the Endowment an additional $67 million. $107 million was a nice start. And in those days, a million dollars would really go places!

This statement was on the website: “The indenture indicates that Mr. Duke envisioned the Endowment as a vehicle to oversee both Duke Power Company and Duke University. Today, such supervision is neither possible nor appropriate. Duke Energy, Duke University, and The Duke Endowment are three completely separate bodies, with separate goals, boards, staffs, and purposes. Duke Energy conducts its own charitable activities completely independent of The Duke Endowment.”

Not to confuse the issue further, but J. B. Duke’s daughter founded the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. Her will provided for the Duke Farms Foundation.

The Employee Advocate does not begrudge the assistance given to worthwhile causes. It has been the garish exploitation of each gift, over the last several years, that causes irritation. It seemed that each new scandal was met with a charitable announcement. As if one cancelled out the other. It never has, and never will.

If an employee asked a question about the apparent lack of corporate ethics, a charitable donation was quickly alluded to. Ken Lay used the same tactics at Enron, as if charitable contributions would excuse corporate skullduggery. This perverts the original concept of the gifts. When all else seems crooked, even charitable contributions become tainted.

Accounting at United Way

The question was asked “How does Rick Priory want to be remembered?”

The answer is not specifically attributed to Paul Anderson, but it is obvious that he answered the question. Someone tossed him a live hand grenade. No matter how he answered it, it was designed to blow up in his face. It would have been very poor form for him to say anything negative about Mr. Priory. But it would have been even worse to have heaped undeserved praise upon him.

Mr. Anderson defused the grenade by answering: “I would hope that any CEO's tenure would be remembered based on a broad judgment of his or her overall accomplishments. A CEO's contribution is made over a period of time and is defined by actions taken to navigate the company through a constantly changing set of business dynamics. I can’t predict how my term as Duke Energy's CEO will be remembered, but I do hope that attributes such as honesty, fairness, integrity and candor are part of that memory.”

A question was asked about an article in TheStreet.com. Specifically: “Why does Mr. Brace still have his current job, given Duke Energy’s financial position?”

The answer, in part: “The Street.com article offers an opinion, rather than facts, about the cause of Duke Energy’s current financial situation. Robert Brace has played a leading role in developing and executing on plans to reduce costs and strengthen the balance sheet through asset sales and debt reduction, and is part of the current Duke Energy senior management team that is committed to achieving future growth…”

Be that as it may, since the meeting, Robert Brace has been given the opportunity to seek employment outside of Duke.

Bye-Bye Brace

Duke Energy Cleans House in Finance Unit

A question was asked about lawsuit against Merck-Medco.

Duke said that Merck-Medco claims to have cleaned up “any deficiencies that might have existed.”

U.S. Joining Suit Against Medco

Articles by and about TheStreet.com:

Duke's Brass Bracing for the Broom

More Duke Coverage

Noon Rebuttal - October 2003

Employee Advocate - DukeEmployees.com – October 27, 2003

Fred Fowler, president and chief operating officer, hosted the October 13, 2003 Noon Meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Mr. Fowler heaped excessive praise on outgoing Chairman and CEO Rick Priory. When undeserved praise is lavished on someone, it just makes things worse. Mr. Priory, in all likelihood, would not be leaving if he had been doing such a great job. He would stick around to soak up a few more millions of dollars. Paul Anderson would not be coming in to try to salvage what he can of the company. If the things that Mr. Fowler said were true, everyone would want Mr. Anderson to be exactly like Rick Priory. That is NOT what anyone wants! Everyone wants Mr. Anderson to be the opposite of Rick Priory.

These departing statements get to be like eulogies. When the biggest chicken thief in town dies, he suddenly becomes a saint. Look! If one was a chicken thief when he was alive, when he dies, he is only a dead chicken thief.

The Employee Advocate agrees with Mr. Fowler that we are fortunate to have Paul Anderson as a successor. Mr. Anderson comes in with a clean slate and much employee goodwill. Mr. Priory leaves with 100 boxcars full of baggage.

On behalf of employees, investors, and customers; the Employee Advocate expresses thanks to Mr. Priory for departing. “It is a far, far better thing that Rick Priory does, than he has ever done.”

Selecting Paul Anderson was probably the best move that the board of directors has made in the last seven years. But that does not mean that Mr. Anderson owes them anything. The more directors that lose their heads, the better off everyone will be.

Things have gone full circle. Mr. Anderson was once one position under Rick Priory. Paul Anderson will move up into the top position in a few days, and Mr. Priory is a lame duck. Rick Priory will hang on for a time to “help.” That is a chilling thought, but it has to be that way. No one can walk into such a position cold turkey, without being completely overwhelmed.

Mr. Priory once viewed making millions by robbing employees of benefits as a “fun ride.”

The End of Mr. Priory’s Fun Ride

Mr. Fowler spoke of the layoffs and said “Our goal is to make the tough decisions quickly and compassionately.”

Duke is really big on compassion. Last year, around Christmas, a security officer at a Duke nuclear plant was asked to help move some boxes. He helped move the boxes from the “protected area” to the parking lot. The boxes were then opened. They contained all of the security officer’s personal belongings. He was laid off on the spot! Catbert, the evil HR director, must really work for Duke.

One can see how Duke would really appreciate the above ploy. Duke prefers to terminate nuclear employees outside of the protected area. The employee’s access badge is deactivated before he is terminated. If the affected employee does not take the termination too well, he is outside of the plant, and cannot get back in! Duke does not want to terminate an employee, armed with an automatic weapon, say… inside the control room!

Mr. Fowler mentioned progress on the Patriot Pipeline Project. This project has not been without opposition, according to the Associated Press:

Duke Seeks Plant Delay

The Duke Energy Trading and Marketing $28 million fine by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission was mentioned. It was not specifically mentioned that the fine was for “attempted manipulation and false reporting.” How many times have executives proclaimed that Duke does not manipulate the energy markets?

Some bean counter in the back of the room will probably say “They only clipped us for attempted market manipulation. We were so bad at it that we were never able to actually pull off any manipulation.”

Duke’s partner in the attempted market manipulation venture was Exxon Mobil. It placed the whole blame on Duke. Exxon Mobil said that it did not even know about the investigation until it was over:

Exxon Mobil Blames Duke Energy

The most amazing thing about the attempted manipulation and false reporting penalty is that Mr. Fowler spun it into a positive! He said that it brought closure and removes some uncertainty over the company. In that light, 20 years in the penitentiary would do the same thing. It would bring closure and remove some uncertainty!

Mr. Fowler claims that everything has been fixed by cutting off a few employees’ heads. No one has accused Duke executives of instructing the gas traders to rob, pillage, and manipulate. These things work on a more subtle level. If employees perceive the top management to be totally ethical, many will try to emulate them. If top management send signals, by every word and action, that its sole concern is profits, then many employees will try to deliver profits in any way possible. It is a case of executives actions drowning out their rhetoric.

Mr. Fowler went on to point out that Duke is an industry leader in initiating the implementation of new price reporting standards. He said this achievement was due to the efforts of the Committee of Chief Risk Officers. He put more of a positive spin on a fine of millions of dollars for attempted manipulation and false reporting.

But only this month, Standard & Poor's charged Duke Energy with failing to disclose enough data to the public! Here we go again. Duke says it leading the industry in financial transparency and an auditing body says it is not meeting minimum standards. It is very easy to take credit for doing an exemplary job, but that does not make it so. A century of stonewalling experience is not easily given up.

Duke Still Keeping Too Many Secrets

Mr. Fowler said “The settlement with the CFTC gives me the opportunity to remind every employee that the company will not tolerate unethical behavior.”

But Duke tolerates unethical behavior very well from the board of directors. No thought is given to exploiting gray areas of the law to deprive employees of their earned pensions. Duke executives knew full well that the cash balance plan conversion was for the sole purpose of taking retirement funds from employees. As if the pension conversion was not enough of an ethics violation, Duke then attempted to hide the true motivation. Large corporations pay actuarial firm to devise ways to take money out of the employees’ pension fund.

All employees knew that the Duke cash balance plan was unethical. A federal court has ruled that the IBM cash balance plan is age discriminatory. No two cash balance plans are completely identical. But they all share the same basic characteristics. The abusive plans use the same methods to extract retirement money from employees. Duke has tried to ignore this issue to death, but it is not going away. If Duke will truly not tolerate unethical behavior, the board of directors needs to hit the road, today.

Mr. Fowler said “All employees in every part of this company are held accountable to the standards of the Code of Business. It is something we must all take very seriously.”

That is not true. Any executive involved in ripping-off employee’s pensions is in direct violation of the Code of Business, and perhaps federal law. Yet, they get bonuses for such actions. Executives regard the Code of Business for the joke that it is!

Mr. Fowler said “Our company reputation is hard earned. A reputation for integrity and ethics is something we must uphold, and it is something that each of us is individually accountable for.”

Duke threw away its reputation seven years ago in the pursuit of easy money at the expense of employees. Only a few traders are held responsible, while the true rogues are rewarded for their underhanded deeds.

The old community service refrain was rolled out. That is supposed to be a magical chant that will cover up all wrongdoings. Everyone recognizes it for what it is, a smoke screen. It is something to distract the public from what is really taking place.

An employee wanted to know where the design support would come from, now that Duke/Fluor Daniel is gone. Mr. Fowler did not have an answer. Anyone can cut off heads. What will happen when the heads are needed?

When asked about Paul Anderson, Mr. Fowler said that he was a great communicator. Going to a great communicator from a great stonewaller will be a welcomed change.

An employee wanted to know if the only way to save money is to lay off employees. He wondered about jet aircraft, box seats, preferred seating licenses, and other such executive white elephants.

Mr. Fowler said that everything is on the table. It is about time! Executives have previously stated that in the past, management was generally excluded from any layoff. It was also stated that management jobs will be on the line this time. In fact, there would be a bias towards eliminating management positions. YES!

Many empires have been built across the company that support an useless program. If anyone could sell management on a “nifty” program, he has always be guaranteed a lifetime empire, which grows each year. Some of the programs are worse than useless, because they add to the overhead of employees. This leaves them with less time to do things that actually make money, like generating electricity and moving natural gas. Duke is finally catching on that electricity and gas make money, and everything else is fluff. Any programmatic empire that cannot justify its existence in dollars should face the ax. The slaughter house will accept sacred cows.

A good question was asked about laying off people at Duke Power, when it is already making more money than allowed in South Carolina.

An answer was given, but it rang hollow.

A question was asked about layoffs and reliability at Duke Power. Mr. Fowler basically said that Duke would work around the issue. Any attempt to dismiss the effect that laying off huge numbers of people will have on reliability is wishful thinking. This will also apply to safety. Safety and reliability will be sacrificed, to some degree, on the alter of money.

Mr. Fowler beat the dead horse of raising ratings by “getting our story out there.”

Rick Priory may not be actually leaving Duke at all. He may have left a pod in Mr. Fowler’s closet. The pod grew into a likeness of Mr. Fowler, but is controlled by Mr. Priory. The more Fred Fowler talks, the more he sounds like Rick Priory!

“Getting our story out there” was another Priory failure. Too much time was spent giving songs and dances for analysts. After all of the wooing of analysts, there was no time to take care of the business. Plus, the “story” given to the analysts was not based on facts.

Those who are good and know it, do not have to spend all of their time trying to convince others just how good they are. The feel no need to sell a “story.”

A question was asked about finger pointing among groups.

Mr. Fowler said “We are going through some tough times now. The simple fact is, it was a lot of people's fault, including the person standing in front of you talking right now.”

Scratch what was said about Mr. Fowler being grown from a pod, controlled by Rick Priory. Mr. Fowler just proved that this would be an impossibility. Mr. Priory has never admitted blame for anything!

Mr. Fowler is not in favor of pointing fingers, but wants everyone to help him “get his chestnuts out of the fire.”

There is little incentive for employees to knock themselves out, only to return to a repeat of the failures of the past seven years. Things were going great for the executives. They had more money rolling in each year by taking away employee benefits.

Management wants the employees to save them from their mistakes. But what is management willing to do for the employees? When will employees regain benefits parity with 1996? Until this issue is addressed, employees should put forth no superhuman efforts to return to the days of everything for executives and nothing for employees.

And finger pointing does a great deal of good, provided it is pointed in the right direction. Those caught with their hands in the cookie jar, understandably, are not in favor of finger pointing!

Someone called Mr. Fowler’s hand on predicting the bottom of a cycle, because that has been said so many times before. Mr. Fowler gave sound reasons for his beliefs, and he was asked. But nevertheless, one must take any business predictions by an executive with a grain of salt. Executives are not exactly unbiased observers. And they have a huge vested interest in always presenting a rosy outlook.

That Dog Won’t Wag

Mr. Fowler said that of 25,000 employees, 10,500 are in Duke Power. It looks like that number will soon go to below 10,000.

An employee sent in this statement: “My perception is that Duke Energy is quietly holding a large bag full of unresolved nasty financial issues… Some employees have asked why we wait until news releases and public filings before sharing information with them. Why can’t employees hear it first?” He wants answers, not stonewalling.

(The answers below are from anonymous sources.)

The answer was an opportunity for Duke to again boast of “providing more financial information to investors sooner,” and the great works of the Committee of Chief Risk Officers.

The fact remains that, this month, Standard & Poor's said that Duke Energy and Dominion Resources are still not disclosing enough data to the public. It is a sorry state of affairs when executives start believing their own press releases.

Not all of Duke’s problems are the fault of Rick Priory. Duke has a long and proud tradition of stonewalling. Employees are always the last to know anything. If you want to know what is going on at Duke, read the newspapers! Duke can be compared with the current White House administration, in this respect. Duke is another “house of secrets.” But a lot of people, that know where the bodies are buried, are getting the ax. Some may feel the need to clear the air. There is no reason for the truth to be suppressed any longer.

The House of Secrets

Part of the question was about a GE turbine contract. A site V. P. once boasted that no other company could build any gas turbines, because Duke had bought all of the supply for years to come. Duke is no longer boasting about that one! Duke wanted it all, and got it all. Then Duke did not want it any more. Have you noticed that the same theme of greed is played out over and over. In trying to gain the world, Duke almost lost everything.

Duke made the understatement of the century: “We tend to be conservative when choosing to share financial information with internal audiences.”

Anytime you want information from Duke, it’s best to have a court order.

Duke went on to say that we are kept in the dark for our own good.

  • Employee: “What happened to my retirement money?

  • Duke: “Don’t worry about it, and go back to work.

An employee questioned a company “cover story.” Fred Fowler becoming president and COO was supposed to allow Rick Priory more time to meet with Wall Street analysts, shareholders, investors and other groups. The employee notice that Mr. Priory has vanished and Fred Fowler has to handle everything. He asked “Why has Mr. Priory maintained such a low profile during these most troublesome times in Duke Energy’s history?”

Duke mouthed some words, but had no real answer.

The real reason is that it became obvious that the more Rick Priory explained, the more Duke was being sucked into the vortex. Plus, he needed time to pack his bags, with 100 boxcars of baggage, it does take some time! Now you know why it takes $100,000 for him to move.

Someone actually wanted to know about the Duke “brand” ads. The company finally came to its senses and pulled the plug on this loser. But as a vampire, such worthless programs are hard to kill off. And, as a vampire, worthless programs suck the blood out of all living things.

The Illusion Ends

A question was asked about Duke Energy's Retirement Cash Balance Plan (RCBP), since IBM’s plan has been ruled to be illegal. Duke’s answer was basically that it will not give back any money until made to do so. Well, well, imagine that.

Don’t give up on receiving justice just yet. The issue is very much alive, and becoming more alive each day. The plan was for corporations to take money from the pension funds under the cover of darkness. If no one noticed, they might be able to pull it off. But when employees pensions started disappearing, guess what? They noticed! They noticed and complained, and they are still complaining. Corporations can no longer sneak money out of pension funds under the cover of darkness. The whole underhanded issue is in the national spotlight. Both houses of Congress have passed legislation not to allow the Bush administration to overturn the court ruling in favor of employee pension justice.

Senate Blocks Cash Balance Rules

Here is a complete question: “With the Enron—and now Pillowtex—bankruptcies, we have seen CEOs and board members walk away with a lot of money, while employees walk away with nothing. It seems to me that these CEOs and board members knew well before the closing of the doors what was going to happen. And the employees who didn't have a clue lost everything. Is there anything in place here at Duke Energy to prevent this from happening? I am seeing employees who have been at Duke for 20, 30 and more years having to take a layoff package because of cost concerns. I would think that it's important to retain employees who have a connection to the company, rather than hire contractors. Maybe our upper-most management and board members could take lower salaries and compensation to keep committed employees?”

Duke provided a circumlocutious non-answer. The real reason is that it is spelled out what the wheels will get if they leave the company. Most employees have no contracts and no guarantees of anything. Employees did have some benefit promises from Duke, in writing. But they turned out to be written in disappearing ink! In the end, the promise of a liar is not worth very much.

Mr. Priory, on at least one occasion, directed employees to an article on TheStreet.com. In keeping with that tradition, the Employee Advocate likes to points out other TheStreet.com articles from time to time:

Duke Crowns New Leader

Duke's Decline Sours Some on Executive Suite

Duke Dons Flip-Flops to Crush Costs

Noon Rebuttal - Page 3 - 2003