Constellation Energy drops incentive payments plan

MARYLAND - Constellation Energy Group Inc. dropped a plan for up to $32 million in performance and retention payments to key managers that was to be a part of an upcoming deal with French power giant EdF.

Maryland's Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley, state legislators and customers had harshly criticized the plan.

Constellation Energy CEO Mayo Shattuck said in a statement that the issue became "a significant distraction" from the benefits for Maryland from the EdF partnership. Shattuck also said that since December, the fundamental outlook for Constellation Energy has improved.

O'Malley spokesman Shaun Adamec said it appeared Constellation "did the right thing," but that the state's public service commission would continue an inquiry into the deal between Constellation and EdF, as well as a recent spike in utility bills.

Adamec said O'Malley was "pretty clear in his outrage" about the bonuses, but he did not know whether the governor had conversations with anyone about revoking the payments.

Baltimore-based Constellation Energy supplies energy products and services to wholesale and retail electric and natural gas customers. It delivers electricity and natural gas through Baltimore Gas & Electric Co., its regulated utility in central Maryland.

EdF plans to buy half of Constellation Energy's nuclear business for $4.5 billion.

In December, Constellation Energy was concerned "the potential instability of the work force could lead to retention issues," particularly in the areas of safety and reliability. The company said that concern prompted the incentive offer. Under the plan, EdF would have paid what about 120 senior executives would have earned based on their performance if an earlier deal with Warren Buffett's MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co. had gone through.

"Since that time, there has been a tremendous amount of concern over employee compensation throughout the country," Shattuck said. He says the Constellation Energy program "has been misconstrued by some as a potential cost to our BGE customers, who we recognize are struggling with high energy bills."

"The funds for this program were coming entirely from EdF and would not have impacted BGE rates," Shattuck noted. A company spokesman had said the payments were not bonuses, and that employees who left early would get nothing.

Delegate Brian Feldman, a Montgomery County Democrat who chairs a subcommittee on banking, economic development, science and technology, said the decision is a "reflection of a multitude of things going on right now both nationally and locally.

"There is a heightened sensitivity to executive pay and bonuses on the national stage, and in Maryland there is a heightened scrutiny of Constellation," Feldman said. "The symbolism of bonuses going out at this time, given the climate, I think would have sent the wrong signals."


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