Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Deliberations Set Today in Bell Case

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Deliberations Set Today in Bell Case

Article excerpt

By Ronda Fears

Journal Record Staff Reporter

Deliberations on the politically charged Southwestern Bell Telephone Co. rate case are set today at the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.

Late Monday, Bell presented its "best and final offer" to settle the case to Commission General Counsel Lindil Fowler, as requested by Commissioner J.C. Watts Jr. Bell's offer extends through Aug. 7.

The offer is not expected to be a topic at the deliberations today, except in general terms, however.

Settlement offer contents are confidential, and Bell officials would not elaborate on its offer except to say that the prospect of a settlement was a "constructive" step. Fowler said it was late when Bell delivered the offer Monday, and he would not have an opportunity to review it until today.

"This case is a mess," said Dave Miller, assistant vice president of external affairs for Bell's Oklahoma Division, in a letter to each of the three commissioners.

"The principal reason we are prepared to discuss a settlement is that continued litigation . . . will not result in a sensible outcome for either SWBT or its customers."

Commission staff initiated the rate investigation in January 1989 and originally sought a $149 million rate cut. Weeks of hearings were held last fall through January.

"The regulatory process is flawed," Miller said in the letter to commissioners.

"Permitting cases to continue on for years, while all parties . . . endure the drain of resources and the expenses associated therewith, is clearly counterproductive to the economic welling of Oklahoma."

At issue is a May 20 recommendation from an administrative law judge to lower Bell's rate of return on equity from 14.25 percent to 12.2 percent. That would result in a rate cut of $39 million to $84 million.

Bell had requested a 14 percent rate of return on equity. …

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