Does DWP Overcharge Scandal Extend to Sweetheart Settlement With Over-billing Lawyer? Judge Puts Brakes On Settlement

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The LA Department of Water and Power’s overbilling scandals are epic. They include an elderly couple who are Soviet emigrees and lived in fear because DWP issued a $50,000 bill to them.  When they complained, they were told to check for a leaky toilet.

DWP is one of the least accountable agencies in the city. When it said it was cleaning up its act, it reached out to a Chicago attorney and reached a deal to allegedly pay ratepayers back.  

Legal objections to the settlement filed by plaintiffs in 3 out of 4 ratepayer class actions against DWP for massive overbilling cast questions about whether the settlement is real, and why the this out of state attorney is being paid $13 million for his 87 days of work.   The legal papers claim that the settlement is riddled with problems and wrongly allows DWP to solely determine who has been overcharged and how much they get back, when DWP cannot be trusted because it got it wrong in the first place.  

Friday LA Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle did not approve the proposed DWP settlement. He told the city’s utility that it needed to improve the settlement and deal with the concerns of the ratepayer objectors, who had argued for better oversight and that the $13 million this attorney billed ratepayers for his less than three months of work wasn’t reasonable.  

It would be a shame if one overbilling scandal would lead to another involving an overcharging attorney and a DWP that doesn’t want a third party determining what it did wrong and who it owes how much.

Now it’s time for DWP to make a more transparent settlement. If they still refuse, Mayor Eric Garcetti and City Attorney Mike Feuer should set the always arrogant and recalcitrant managers at DWP straight. LA ratepayers deserve an objective process to get their money back and real oversight of its renegade utility.

Jamie Court
Jamie Court
Consumer Watchdog's President and Chairman of the Board is an award-winning and nationally recognized consumer advocate. The author of three books, he has led dozens of campaigns to reform insurance companies, financial institutions, energy companies, political accountability and health care companies.

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