UPDATE: PSC Chairman: Enough about Wall Streetby Dara Kam | October 27th, 2009
Public Service Commission Chairman Matthew Carter apparently heard enough about the financial community’s worries about regulators’ decision on FPL’s proposed $1.2 billion rate hike.
Florida Power & Light Co. lawyer John Butler urged the PSC to push on with a scheduled December vote on the rate increase even after the panelists indicated they were going to give in to Gov. Charlie Crist’s demand to defer the decision.
FPL officials testified repeatedly that the Juno Beach-based utility needs the rate hike in part because Wall Street is closely watching the outcome of the case and a rejection of the increase could affect their ability to borrow.
As the panel prepared to approve delaying the FPL vote until next year, Carter, a former financial analyst and lawyer, took his second swipe at Wall Street.
“I think we make too much ado about what Wall Street will do and what wall street wants,” he said.
“This is the worst economic time in our country since the Great Depression,” Carter said.
Banks and financial institutions received $1.5 trillion in government bail-outs, some of it going to pad executives salaries, Carter went on.
“That’s a lot of money. That went to Wall Street firms and banks. That came from the taxpayers. That money was given to them by the government to stimulate the economy not to enrich themselves and all,” he said.
“I’m not beating up on Wall Street but I’m not buying the doom and gloom either.”
Earlier, FPL lawyer Butler said that a delay could further frighten investors who are already leery about the changing regulatory climate in Florida, once utility-friendly and now appearing to lean more to consumers thanks to Crist’s appointees.
Carter interrupted Butler in midstream with the following rant.
The investment community received more than $1 billion in bailouts so far, Carter said, “and they haven’t had anything to show for it yet.”
“My heart’s not really bleeding for Wall Street right now.
They have a lot of work to do on their part,” Carter, a financial analyst and lawyer, said, calling Wall Street’s worries “crocodile tears.”
The exchange went as staff from at least one New York investment firm – who has monitored the proceedings in Tallahassee for several weeks – listened intently.
“FPL’s concern isn’t over the investment community. It’s over what the investment community can do to FPL,” Butler said.