Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Civil-rights leader Ernesto Pichardo encourages Kristine Svinicki to resign from Southern Company board as she risks criminal and civil penalties

Kristine Svinicki

A civil-rights leader is calling on the former head of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to resign from Southern Company's board of directors due to the firm's alleged involvement in racketeering activity, according to a post today at

Kristine L. Svinicki joined the Southern Company board in October 2021 after serving under three presidents, making her the NRC's longest-serving commissioner. But Ernesto Pichardo, who has a history of work on civil-rights issues and now serves as chairman of the board for the CDLU public charity and advocacy group, has sent a message encouraging Svinicki to step away from her Southern Company position as scandal appears to be engulfing the embattled firm.

K.B. Forbes, CEO of the CDLU and publisher of its Ban Balch blog, writes under the headline "Resign, Svinicki, Resign! Did Ex-NRC Chair Violate Federal Law? Southern Company Board Member in Hot Water":

The Southern Company Criminal RICO Enterprise has left carcasses scattered all over the place from ex-Balch & Bingham partner Clark A. Cooper to disgraced ex-U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town, from ex-Balch partner Jeffrey H. Wood to ousted ex-Alabama Power CEO Mark A. Crosswhite.

Will Kristine L. Svinicki be next?

Svinicki has been called on to resign her position immediately on the Southern Company Board of Directors by Civil Rights Champion Ernesto Pichardo.

Pichardo, Chairman of the CDLU’s Board of Directors, sent a brief message to Svinicki:

You should resign immediately from the board of this criminal enterprise. The 30 pieces of silver given to parade you around and defend the concealment and mismanagement of Southern Company is embarrassing. You are much better than them. You don’t need them. Resign, Ms. Svinicki, resign.

Will Svinicki heed Pichardo's words? It might be a good idea, considering her sterling reputation could be sullied by an extended association with Southern Company. 

Longtime Alabama attorney Donald Watkins -- who has filed a criminal RICO complaint against Southern Company, plus a complaint with the NRC challenging the firm's fitness to own and operate the Vogtle Nuclear Power Plant in Georgia -- has written in detail about Svinicki's ties to Southern Company, noting that her board position could land her in rocky waters. Writes Forbes:

And who is Svinicki?

As posted last night:

On March 28, 2008, President George W. Bush appointed Ms. Kristine Svinicki as a member of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). She served as a Commissioner under three U.S. presidents, thereby becoming the NRC’s longest-serving Commissioner.

On January 23, 2017, President Donald J. Trump appointed Ms. Svinicki as Chairwoman of the NRC. On January 20, 2021, Ms. Svinicki announced her departure from the NRC on the eve of Joe Biden’s swearing-in as the 46th president of the United States.

Ms. Svinicki has decades of public service experience with a distinguished career as a nuclear engineer and policy advisor, working at the state and federal levels of government, and in both the legislative and executive branches.

So where is the controversy? lays out the influence peddling:

On October 18, 2021, some 10 months after she retired from the NRC, Ms. Svinicki was appointed to the board of directors of the Southern Company.

Ms. Svinicki’s board appointment appears to be a classic example of influence peddling by the parent company of Georgia Power Company and Southern Nuclear Operating Company. These Southern Company affiliates hold NRC-issued licenses as the “owner” and “operator” of the Vogtle Nuclear Power Plant in Waynesboro, Georgia.

There are thousands of highly qualified nuclear engineers in America. There are also scores of individuals with nuclear policy advisory experience that is comparable to Ms. Svinicki’s. However, there is only one person who served as Chairperson of the NRC from 2017 to 2021.

Could her association with Southern Company cause the highly respected Svinicki to step into criminal territory? Forbes addresses that question:

But the real hot water is federal regulations that bar the “revolving door scenario” that Svinicki appears to have violated. describes the regulations.

An employee or member of a federal regulatory agency who participated personally and substantially in a particular matter involving a specific party (e.g., grants, contracts, licenses, permits, applications, litigation, etc.), may never appear before or communicate on behalf of another with any federal department, agency, or court regarding that same particular matter. See, 18 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1). This is a lifetime restriction.

For particular matters involving specific parties under the employee’s or agency member’s official responsibility during his/her last year of government service, the employee or member of a federal regulatory agency is restricted for two years after he/she leaves government service from appearing before and/or communicating on behalf of another with any federal department, agency, or court regarding those same particular matters. See, 18 U.S.C. § 207(a)(2).

These post-government employment restrictions are commonly known as “revolving door” restrictions. They are designed to prevent influence peddling within federal agencies by management-level employees and members of federal regulatory agencies who depart their government positions for high-paying cushy jobs with the very companies they interacted with in their capacity as government officials. 

What about possible punishment for violations of these laws? That's where the statutory language takes on a highly serious tone, Forbes reports:

The enforcement of these lifetime and two-year restrictions is codified under federal law,  and the consequences could be severe. If Svinicki indeed violated federal law, the U.S. Attorney General could file criminal charges against her under 18 U.S.C. § 216:

1) Whoever engages in the conduct constituting the offense shall be imprisoned for not more than one year or fined in the amount set forth in this title, or both.
2) Whoever willfully engages in the conduct constituting the offense shall be imprisoned for not more than five years or fined in the amount set forth in this title, or both.
Although Svinicki would most likely not be sent to prison, the fine is defined as a “civil penalty of not more than $50,000 for each violation or the amount of compensation which the person received or offered for the prohibited conduct.”

Svinicki appears to be in hot water. Boiling hot water.

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