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Regulators order Duke, Progress to disclose deals

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North Carolina utilities regulators have ordered Duke Energy and Progress Energy to detail some of the deals they cut with major customers before their merger earlier this year.

The companies had argued that the information constitutes trade secrets. But the North Carolina Utilities Commission said Tuesday the deals have no commercial value, so disclosing them wouldn't give anyone else an economic advantage. The documents had been sought by several media outlets under public requests.

The commission said the utilities could redact some provisions that include proprietary information before releasing them. The companies have until Aug. 24 to file the records or appeal the ruling.

Days after approval by North Carolina regulators, Duke Energy and Progress Energy completed their merger in July, sealing a deal that created America's largest electric company. But hours after the deal was concluded, Duke Energy's board ousted the CEO it promised to keep throughout the 18-month process of combining North Carolina's two Fortune 500 energy companies.

Utilities regulators and North Carolina's attorney general have launched investigations that have included extensive demands of internal documents and communications. The commission, which is considering whether to alter its approval of the merger, has hired a former federal prosecutor to probe whether regulators were misled ahead of the acquisition.

The investigation could take a while. The last time the commission launched a similar probe, it hired outside auditors who took nine months to comb through Duke's books. They found Duke underreported profits by $124 million over three years. Duke paid $25 million in a settlement that included no admission of wrongdoing.

Duke Energy now has 7.1 million residential and business customers in North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and Florida.

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