Bohn Appointed to Opening on PUC;

Published on

Critics Site Conflict of Interest with His Current Firm

Los Angeles Times

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed the former head of Moody’s Investors Service to the state’s Public Utilities Commission on Monday, filling the final vacancy on the powerful regulatory body.

John Bohn, 67, who also worked in the Reagan administration’s Treasury Department and now runs a consulting firm, is expected to be sworn in by Thursday. He replaces Schwarzenegger’s last pick for the commission, Silicon Valley entrepreneur Steve Poizner, who had to withdraw unexpectedly because his financial holdings were too large to avoid conflicts of interest.

The five-member PUC regulates utilities, telecommunications firms and railroads. Among its tasks is to help find a new way to encourage power generation in California, help decide whether to deregulate the electricity market for major customers and whether to implement a so-called
telecommunications bill of rights.

“John is uniquely positioned to understand how regulatory structures impact investment decisions,” Schwarzenegger said in a statement.

Among Bohn’s clients at his current company, GlobalNet Venture Partners, is an “early-stage” firm working on software to compile energy data, according to GlobalNet’s website. That led one consumer advocate Monday to complain that Bohn was an inappropriate choice for the PUC.

“He’s got a clear conflict of interest with his current firm,” said Doug Heller of the Santa Monica-based Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, adding that the software could be used by traders like the sort who contributed to the 2000-01 energy crisis. “Schwarzenegger should be looking for someone with credentials to be a consumer watchdog, not a captain of industry.”

Bohn, a registered Republican, didn’t return a call for comment Monday.

The Schwarzenegger administration didn’t seem fazed by the relationship with the energy firm. “The governor fully expects that Mr. Bohn will comply with all conflict-of-interest rules and looks forward to his service,” spokeswoman Julie Soderlund said.

The Independent Energy Producers Assn., a trade group of power generators, also hailed the appointment. “Mr. Bohn’s credentials and reputation precede him, and given his strong experience in the financial industry his appointment sends an important signal to companies looking to invest in California’s energy future,” said Executive Director Jan Smutny-Jones.

Bohn was an international banker for Wells Fargo until 1981, when he became special assistant to Reagan’s Treasury Secretary, Donald Regan. Other than his time at Moody’s from 1989 to 1996, Bohn has also been managing director of public relations firm Burston Marsteller and founded a company that traded petrochemicals online.

Michael Shames, director of the Utility Consumers’ Action Network in San Diego, criticized Schwarzenegger for appointing someone with no apparent expertise in the complex world of utility regulation.

“I’d hoped he’d bring someone into the fray who was a little more knowledgeable,” Shames said.

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