Winning Back Billions for California Consumers
Baker, Burton & Lundy’s eight year fight and multi-billion dollar victories will provide decades of benefits for all California energy consumers and prevent energy companies from benefiting from their conspiracy.
SEPTEMBER 1996: SETTING THE STAGE
The start to one of America’s most devastating multi-billion dollar energy conspiracies began in a most unlikely place: a remote and seedy hotel room in the heat of Arizona. The meeting, attended by thirteen top executives from three major pipeline companies, occurred without attorneys or assistants present. This secret meeting—with only the hotel room’s bed as witness—focused on how these companies could abuse their collective monopoly of the flow of natural gas into Southern California.
No one kept any notes from that meeting except one meticulous, some say compulsive, vice president.
1999: FINDING THE EVIDENCE
In an unrelated case in Texas, boxes and boxes of worthless documents had been dumped by one of these energy companies in an attempt to bury their adversary in endless pre-trial review. Instead, they gave their opponents a document that became the key to one of the largest cases in California history.
Four sheets of paper among those thousands revealed the agenda, draft agenda, and notes of the secret meeting. These pages laid out their foundation of non-competition, which ultimately limited natural gas pipelines into California, creating the energy crisis of 2000-2001 that hurt so many families and businesses in California and Nevada.
2000-2006: FORMING THE TEAM
With this evidence in hand, Baker, Burton & Lundy partnered with Lance Astrella to spearhead the monumental task of getting justice for the wronged Californians. Recruiting and organizing a team of top attorneys and experts, they filed a lawsuit September 2000 against El Paso, SoCalGas and SDG&E that would lead to billions of dollars of benefits for California businesses and consumers.
Baker, Burton & Lundy and the team began the grueling process of fighting off waves of jurisdictional motions and preparing the case for trial. It was not unusual for an attorney at Baker, Burton & Lundy to spend over 100 hours a week working to counter the efforts of the defendants and their hundreds of elite attorneys. Despite overwhelming odds and opposition, they did not quit.
In preparing for trial, millions of pages of documents were reviewed, categorized, analyzed, and incorporated into a database for future reference and easy recall. Dozens of depositions from around the nation were hotly contested day after day as the energy companies fought tooth and nail to avoid the company-threatening trial, which all involved understood would be “betting the company.”
In 2004 El Paso settled for $1.7 billion. The tougher fight continued with Sempra Energy.
In 2005, the team thwarted ten weeks of pretrial motions seeking to exclude any harmful evidence against the energy companies. After five months of living out of a suitcase in a hotel, it finally paid off as a settlement was reached in the middle of trial. This settlement not only returned ill-gotten gains to the consumers, but forced the utilities to reverse and restructure their natural gas delivery system and storage, giving everyone a level playing field for the first time in almost a decade.
Baker, Burton & Lundy understood that money alone would not solve the problems created in the natural gas delivery system. Today the consumers of California are reaping the benefits of the lowest natural gas prices in decades, in large part because of the restructuring forced upon the utilities by the lawsuit. The value of this restructuring was estimated by experts to be worth over $2.3 billion to the consumers of California.