200 gigabytes and 1 million items given to Attorney General in price gouging probe

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The revelation of a 6-page memo regarding the Oklahoma Attorney General’s subpoena of communications by those who worked on the 2021 Winter Storm securitization at the Oklahoma Corporation Commission shows the list did not involve an extensive number as might have been considered.

However, the amount of material was still large as Gentner Drummond widens his investigation into suspected market manipulation of natural gas prices during the storm named Uri.

“The Attorney General has received more than 200 gigabytes and 1 million items from the agency,” said Matt Skinner, a spokesman for the Corporation Commission. He could offer no further details.

Actually, the total was approximately 1,083,200 items and 290.34 GB. A gigabyte is equivalent to one billion bytes and a byte is the unit used by most computers to represent a character such as a letter or number.

Information about the supoena is still withheld by the Attorney General’s office as well as the Oklahoma Office of Management and Enterprise Services where OK Energy Today was initially referred earlier in the week with a request for information about what was given to the Attorney General.

After an exchange of emails, Christa Helfrey, Public Information Officer at OMES, responded, “OMES does not have any information responsive to your questions. Please contact the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office or the Oklahoma Corporation Commission directly.” Neither of those agencies were talking at the time of the request.

However, a memo dated Nov. 28 by Patricia Franz, General Counsel to the Commission revealed an eDiscovery request had been submitted to the Office of Management and Enterprise Services “requesting all communications during the relevant time period” for current and former Corporation Commission employees and officers.

The list included three employees or former employees in each of the offices of the three corporation commissioners. Three individuals in the Office of General Counsel who worked on the subject matter were identified.

The list of those who were asked to supply communications included Brandy Wreath, who was Director of the Public Utility Division at the time in question. He is now the General Administrator of the Commission. Six others who work or worked in the PUD were also identified. Two individuals in the Public Information Office at the Commission were also identified.

The memo stated the list was provided to the Corporation Commissioners and to Chase Snodgrass, Deputy Attorney General during the commission meeting of Nov. 21.

“Subsequent to that meeting Mr. Snodgrass confirmed that the Attorney General’s Office was satisfied with the list of officers and employees and would make requests related to additional individuals if necessary,” continued the memo.

It’s known a third party contractor, Deloitt, apparently handled the communications for the Attorney General, OMES and the Corporation Commission.

In a Nov. 22 communication to Franz, Snodgrass approved of the commission using .PST or personal storage table files to make the transfer of the requested communications.

“We are currently nailing down someone on our side who Deloitt can connect with for the actual production. It will likely be our one (sic) of the attorneys at Foshee & Yaffee. They will provide OAG a copy on hard drive,” wrote Snodgrass.

Foshee and Yaffee is the Oklahoma City law firm that won a contract with the Attorney General to carry out any possible legal action into the ongoing and expanded investigation into alleged market manipulation that occurred during the 2021 Winter Storm where natural gas prices soared to astronomical levels.

The material from the Corporation Commission was surrendered on two separate encrypted external hard drives, one to be delivered to Snodgrass and a second to the Attorney General’s outside counsel (Foshee and Yaffee).

What isn’t known is whether the surrendered communications were only from Corporation Commission computers and phones or whether the subpoena applied to home computers and private i-phones or cell phones used by the employees at the time of the securitization. The subpoena had a time frame of Feb. 1, 2021 to March 31, 2022, a period when the nation was hit by the COVID epidemic and many employees worked remotely from their homes.

Critics contend some possible communications regarding securitization and the issuance of bonds used in extending ratepayers costs for 25-28 years might have been made on private computers and phones. “Secret” computers as one source described it. Another suggested communications of political influence might have been carried out through non-government software.

Those same critics wonder why the subpoena application, as agreed to by the commission’s general counsel and the Attorney General’s office, did not apply to the financial advisors and to the Administrative Law Judges who drew up the drafts for the securitizations for each of the utilities. There remain some questions about alleged “mysteriously altered language” in some of the drafts, language that the bond advisers preferred.

The company eventually hired to be bond advisers to the Corporation Commission and the Oklahoma Development Finance Authority was Hilltop Securities. It is a Texas firm that, as OK Energy Today reported in September of last year, had a history of at least 54 alleged violations and nearly $15 million in combined fines and penalties, some by the Securities and Exchange Commission.