Attorney general's snub sparks class-action suit on electric co-op

Legal News Line May 16, 2007, 11:00am

Jan Soifer

AUSTIN - A Texas customer has filed a class-action lawsuit against the nation's largest electric co-operative, her lawyer informed LegalNewsLine today. Lee Beck Lawrence, whose grandfather served 37 years as director of the Pedernales Electric Co-operative (PEC), sued the PEC's officers in an Austin court today. Lawrence alleges "flagrant breaches of fiduciary duty [that] have gone uninterrupted for decades" amongst the PEC's leadership. She has been a co-operative member since 1994. Her attorney, Jan Soifer, filed a class-action suit on behalf of Lawrence and "all others similarly situated" against PEC and 19 named officers and directors of the co-operative (see attachment). The suit was filed in the 200th Texas District Court of Travis County. "Something is seriously wrong at the top of this member-owned cooperative," Lawrence told LegalNewsLine in a statement provided today by Soifer. Soifer is a partner at Austin firm Lawrence Soifer Satija LLP and specializes in non-profit law. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott confirmed recently that he would not address Lawrence's complaints, LegalNewsLine reported Monday. Soifer filed a formal complaint with Abbott's office against PEC and its officers' compensation packages March 9. Today's lawsuit from Lawrence follows up on Soifer's complaint to Abbott about PEC's financial management. It alleged the co-operative overpays its managers in breach of fiduciary duty to its members and that PEC's officers are too secretive in their financial dealings. PEC has around 213,000 members across 8,100 square miles and had estimated assets in 2006 in excess of $1 billion, Lawrence's filing states. Monday's article said PEC had revenues of about $413 million and paid executive compensation of $829,000 in 2005. The suit seeks damages of all "excessive compensation and benefits and all improper expeditures" and "exemplary damages based on malice and/or malfeasance." PEC serves 16 counties in the Hill Country of central Texas and was founded in 1938 by future Texas Senator and President Lyndon Baines Johnson.

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