The former Commonwealth Edison CEO, Anne Pramaggiore, is pushing back against a state regulatory agency’s bid to suspend her law license following her May conviction for conspiring to bribe former House Speaker Michael Madigan.
In a new filing with the Illinois Supreme Court, Pramaggiore contends she engaged in no wrongdoing despite a jury’s unanimous verdict against her in a nine-count criminal indictment, and she urged no action until her appeal runs its course.
A long-time ComEd critic characterized the arguments Pramaggiore is making in defense of her law license as something akin to “thumbing her nose” at the criminal justice system.
After Pramaggiore’s conviction, the state Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission petitioned the state’s highest court for an order to suspend her law license, saying the jury’s verdict drew from misconduct by Pramaggiore that violated the professional code of conduct for Illinois lawyers.
But in her rebuttal to the court, Pramaggiore rejects the jury’s findings against her, saying she “disagrees that the jury’s verdicts can be deemed to represent persuasive, much less conclusive, evidence of …guilt of serious criminal offenses.”
Pramaggiore’s filing went on to say “the jury verdicts can be equally understood as findings that [she] engaged in entirely legal conduct.”
In early May, the federal jury determined Pramaggiore, in fact, did commit crimes by approving a series of no-work subcontracts in which ComEd filtered more than $1 million through intermediaries to pay political friends whom Madigan handpicked for the plum do-nothing power company assignments.
Pramaggiore testified in her own defense and claimed not to know about the existence of those ghost subcontractors despite how a torrent of wiretaps and emails presented by prosecutors showed otherwise.
The jury forewoman in the case told WBEZ in May that Pramaggiore, whom prosecutors said was trained in acting as a collegian, seemed to be performing while on the stand and that her testimony seemed “misleading.”
“There was just overwhelming evidence that she had conversations about them, knew they were getting paid, and it was just so present,” Sarah Goldenberg said of Pramaggiore and the ghost subcontractors.
The ARDC appeared to frame Pramaggiore’s conduct in a similar manner.
In its own filing seeking an interim suspension of her law license, the agency argued that Pramaggiore “violated the Rules of Professional Conduct; that [her] conduct involves moral turpitude or which reflects adversely upon her fitness to practice law, and that there appears to be persuasive evidence to support the charges.”
Pramaggiore filed her response with the state Supreme Court on Monday.
Pramaggiore was admitted to the Illinois bar in 1989 after graduating from the DePaul University School of Law. She clerked for U.S. District Judge Charles Kocoras, later became a litigation partner at McDermott Will and Emery and, in 1998, landed as lead counsel at ComEd, where she began her climb to the top of the company.
Pramaggiore’s filing to the state Supreme Court cited her “exceptional professional career,” starting with her clerkship for Kocoras to becoming CEO of Exelon Utilities, and said that background “provides strong assurance that [she] poses no threat to clients or the integrity of the profession.”
She is currently listed as voluntary inactive as a lawyer but is currently registered with ARDC, state records show.
Pramaggiore is being represented before the state Supreme Court by lawyer Mary Robinson, who was ARDC’s top administrator for 15 years and now works for the Chicago law firm of Robinson, Stewart, Montgomery and Doppke.
Robinson declined to comment when contacted by WBEZ, saying it would be “inappropriate” to do so outside of the arguments contained in her pleadings.
In May, WBEZ reported that Exelon, ComEd’s corporate parent, was footing Pramaggiore’s legal bills under an indemnification guarantee in its bylaws. At trial, she was represented by a team of five Sidley Austin lawyers, led by former U.S. Attorney Scott Lassar.
At the time of that report, a company spokeswoman insisted ratepayer dollars were not being used to pay for Pramaggiore’s criminal defense team and left open the possibility the company might attempt to claw back what it has paid thus far if her appeal fails.
So far, Pramaggiore has not attempted to bill Exelon for legal fees associated with her fight to avoid sanctions against her law license.
“If we receive a request to pay these fees, we will evaluate whether that payment is required” under Exelon’s indemnification clause, ComEd spokeswoman Shannon Breymaier told WBEZ. “Even if payment were required, it would be excluded from rates and not recovered from customers.”
A long-time critic of ComEd, former Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, said Pramaggiore is entitled to her appeal but criticized her for minimizing the weight of the jury’s verdict against her.
“Once the jury speaks, I think the defendants have to respect that decision. It’s a decision of 12 men and women good and true who heard the evidence and made their decision,” he said. “And I don’t think any defendant should thumb their nose at the jury’s decision. It’s the fundamental part of American justice. A former CEO of ComEd and then Exelon should not do that.”
Dave McKinney covers state politics and government for WBEZ and is a longtime former Springfield bureau chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.