The parent of Central Maine Power Co. countersued a cybersecurity firm in a New Mexico court on Saturday, alleging extortion and false statements in a proceeding over a merger between the utility giant and an electric company in the southwestern state.
It came one day after news emerged that Pennsylvania-based Security Limits Inc. sued Avangrid, a U.S. subsidiary of the Spain-based Iberdrola, in federal court, alleging a bid-rigging scheme in which millions of dollars in equipment was wastefully purchased to boost ratepayer payouts. Gov. Janet Mills called the allegations “alarming” and called for a regulatory review.
Avangrid, CMP’s parent, has called the allegations false. They come amid New Mexico’s consideration of a merger with the dominant New Mexico electric utility and about a month after voters rejected a $1 billion hydropower corridor through western Maine.
In its lawsuit in a state court in New Mexico, Avangrid calls Security Limits CEO Paulo Silva “a disgruntled former subcontractor” who was trying to win business with the utility giant. The company cites a series of emails earlier this year between Silva and Avangrid officials.
One is from August, when Silva told the company he would be testifying in a New Mexico hearing on the merger and shared a summary of his remarks. Avangrid says it contained “numerous false statements” and was meant to extort the company over the merger.
“The unquestionable import of this email was an effort to extort Avangrid, and it constitutes a crime,” the lawsuit says.
Later that month, Silva testified in New Mexico, making several statements that Avangrid called false, including one that Ibedrola executives have been “indicted in Spain for corporate espionage.” There is an active investigation there that names Iberdrola officials, but no wrongdoing has been alleged as the probe is in a fact-finding stage.
Silva and his company became a subcontractor working on an Avangrid cybersecurity program in 2018. When he raised concerns about how equipment was being purchased, Avangrid began steering business to his competitors, resulting in “tens of millions” in unused equipment sitting in warehouses owned by a contractor in both Maine and New York, according to his lawsuit.
Security Limits alleges that was done in order to increase ratepayer payouts, since Avangrid’s affiliates in states have agreements with public utility regulators to recover capital costs plus a certain percentage of profit.
That implication caught the attention of utility watchers in Maine, prompting the governor to call for the review. Acting Public Advocate Andrew Landry said if the allegations are demonstrated to have merit, his office will explore whether CMP customers were charged for any such equipment in a Maine Public Utilities Commission proceeding.