Kevin Marsh, the former CEO of the now-defunct SCANA electric utility, pleaded guilty Wednesday morning in federal court to an array of conspiracy fraud charges involving a cover-up of financial troubles connected to the failure of the company's $10 billion nuclear project.
He will be formally sentenced at a later date and has agreed to a two year prison sentence. He had agreed to plead guilty in November.
Federal prosecutor Jim May described Marsh's crime as one of failure to disclose rather than an orchestrated scheme to defraud.
"He was not Bernie Madoff," May told U.S. District Judge Mary Lewis in court Wednesday, referring to the mastermind behind a Ponzi scheme that defrauded billions of dollars from investors.
Marsh's appearance in federal court came some three and a half years after SCANA acknowledged to the public that it and Santee Cooper electric utility, its partner in the troubled nuclear venture, were giving up on the trouble-plagued project.
At first, the project's difficulties were blamed on matters such as construction delays but as a years-long FBI investigation showed, SCANA executives including Marsh kept the problems hidden from the public, investors and regulars. And deceiving the public by covering up serious problems at a publicly-traded company such as SCANA is a federal crime.
Marsh, 65, who now lives in North Carolina, helped lead a two-year cover-up, from 2016 to 2018, of the serious financial trouble that was jeopardizing the success of not only the ongoing Fairfield County nuclear project but also the troubled financial health of SCANA, according to records and evidence in the case.
At the time, SCANA - which has since been acquired by the Dominion Energy - was a respected gas and electric publicly-traded utility and the only Fortune 500 company in South Carolina. It had 700,000 electric customers and 350,000 natural gas customers.