More than 77,000 people who have used Cobb EMC as their electric provider will receive checks in the coming weeks from Cobb EMC, said David Cohen with Powder Springs-based Complex Law Group, who is representing the customers.
Cobb EMC is a nonprofit owned by its 175,000 customers, called “members,” and was accused of failing to return excess revenues to customers.
The suit alleged that $286 million should have been returned to members but was kept by the electric co-op instead. At the end of each year, Cobb EMC places its excess revenue in a capital account where it is assigned to the members based on how much electricity they use.
Until the lawsuit was filed in 2010, the last time Cobb EMC refunded capital credits to its members was in 1976, when it returned $500,000.
The lawsuit reached a $98 million settlement Feb. 25, which is the largest class-action settlement in Cobb County’s history.
Former county commissioner Butch Thompson, who was a lead petitioner in the case, said it’s a relief to see results after such a long fight.
“I am very pleased. This was something that should have been done years ago,” Thompson said.
He said Cobb EMC is being run by a responsible board now, and he is glad to know his fight was worth it.
“It was worth it to correct a wrong, and as a result of it, the customers now will get back some compensation for the years that they should have,” Thompson said.
In what Cohen called the “first wave” of distributions, a total of $24.6 million, will be mailed out by the end of the week.
The Garden City Group, Inc., which was appointed by Cobb Superior Court to be the claims administrator, will send all the checks by July 31. The company is also in charge of issuing notices, receiving claims and processing the claims related to the settlement. The deadline to file a claim was March 8.
The payments vary, but Cohen said some larger businesses or organizations could get as much as $500,000 with this check.
Payouts under the settlement range from fewer than $100 to several million dollars. Members can choose to receive an immediate payout of a portion of their capital credits or to receive the full amount on a yearly basis over 24 years.
“Each check would depend on how long you’ve been a member, and the patronage capital or capital credit depends on how much power you’ve paid for each year,” Cohen said.
A total of 117,915 claims were submitted, and of those, 89,475 were either duplicate claims or not completed correctly, Cohen said.
Anyone who thinks they should get a check but doesn’t receive one in the next month should check the claim they filed, Cohen said. Those who filed incomplete claims will get a letter in the mail to notify them.
“In many cases, the problem is as simple as inadvertently not selecting a payment option or not signing the claim form they submitted,” Garden City Group said in a statement.
Cohen said those claims will still be accepted once they are completed and returned.
A lawsuit against former Cobb EMC President Dwight Brown is ongoing, but trial dates before Cobb Superior Court Judge Robert Flournoy have not yet been set, said Kim Isaza, the district attorney’s spokeswoman.
Brown was indicted in 2011 on theft and racketeering charges after he was accused of running the electric co-op as a for-profit company, benefiting its executives. He has been out of jail on bond since July of 2011.