Stung by criticism after the San Bruno disaster, utility commissioners Michael Peevey (left) and Timothy Alan Simon consoled themselves with utility industry–funded overseas travel.
  • Stung by criticism after the San Bruno disaster, utility commissioners Michael Peevey (left) and Timothy Alan Simon consoled themselves with utility industry–funded overseas travel.
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On September 9, 2010, a Pacific Gas & Electric natural gas pipeline exploded in San Bruno. Eight people were killed and 38 homes destroyed. Early last year, Bay Area assemblyman Jerry Hill told the California Public Utilities Commission that its lax regulation was greatly responsible.

Michael Peevey, president of the commission, indignantly huffed that a panel had been named to study the tragedy, so the assemblyman’s remark was “contemptible.”

Intoned Timothy Alan Simon, a commissioner, “I find it personally offensive for the member of the legislature to come before this body and try to even imply or indicate the slightest scintilla that we have been complacent in this area.”

Peevey had shown some humility right after the disaster, but in mid-2011, after the panel came out with the study lashing the utility for its incompetence and the commission for its weak-kneed regulation, Peevey gulped down a big helping of humble pie. He pledged that the commission would improve enforcement. Then, that year, he took four overseas trips paid for by utilities — to the United Kingdom, Sweden, Italy, and Australia. Simon went along on the Sweden and Italy junkets. His fiancée, San Francisco port commissioner Kimberly Brandon, went on the Sweden trip. Assemblyman Hill said the trips were shameful.

The California Public Utilities Commission continues to be marked by arrogance, ineptitude, bureaucratic sclerosis, pro-utility and anti-consumer bias, blindness to conflicts of interest, and the publishing of misleading information about its commissioners. The utilities the commission regulates are just as…well…contemptible. Pacific Gas & Electric wants its customers to pick up a significant part of the tab for future improvements in its pipelines. This smacks of San Diego Gas & Electric’s outrageous attempt to get its customers to pay for uninsured costs of the 2007 wildfires, for which the utility was found negligent. And the local utility wants customers to indemnify it against costs of future fires.

So what is the commission doing? The administrative law judge handling San Diego Gas & Electric’s attempt to fleece its customers is Maribeth Bushey, a former lawyer for — you guessed it — San Diego Gas & Electric. In 1993, her husband, then an inventor for a company 80 percent owned by SDG&E, owed the utility $110,000.

The commissioner handling the wildfire case is Timothy Alan Simon, who was appointed five years ago amid controversy. Simon’s biography on the commission website says he is “a former securities and banking industry attorney” who serves on several nonprofit boards, particularly ones tied to the Roman Catholic Church, and “is engaged and is the proud father of three children.”

But documents from other sources raise many questions about that Simon biography. Unfortunately, he did not respond to a request for information. He is a son of the legendary Joseph “Bunny” Simon, who owned eight nightclubs in San Francisco. One, the Play Pen, was adjacent to the first campaign headquarters of political powerhouse Willie Brown, who later recommended Bunny’s son for the commission post.

In his younger years, Timothy Alan Simon used the name Sultan Muhammad Al-Nasser, according to a report by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, the nongovernmental securities regulator known as FINRA. He and his wife, Kamilah Al-Nasser, had three children: Suphia, Nahel, and Jamal. The marriage ended in divorce. On September 24, 2002, he filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy “due to financial conditions imposed by dissolution of marriage,” he reported on his FINRA form. Alameda County records show that Timothy Alan Simon was hit by numerous liens and notices of default in the 1990s and early 2000s. The Los Angeles Times said in a 2007 story that in 2006, while Simon was appointments secretary for Governor Schwarzenegger, a judge ordered the state to deduct $1795 per month from Simon’s salary as part of a plan to repay his debts. Initially, he defaulted on that plan. I couldn’t reach Simon’s ex-wife for comment.

Simon’s background as a securities industry attorney is hardly impressive. He graduated from the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law in 1982 but didn’t pass the California bar until 1997. He did get a law license in Oklahoma in 1990 and practiced there. He was suspended for three months that year for failure to comply with mandatory education requirements, according to FINRA records. He was suspended again in 1998, according to Oklahoma bar records, but was preparing to quit that bar, which he did the next year.

In 1989, Simon passed his Series 7 examination — the one taken by stockbrokers-to-be. In 2002, he passed examinations for a securities sales supervisor and for a compliance officer. (A brokerage’s compliance officer makes sure the firm is following industry rules.) From 2002 to 2005, he worked for a San Francisco firm called PreferredTrade. During that period, the brokerage got fined and censured by exchanges for not submitting accurate trading information; failing to have appropriate supervision procedures; failing to fund reserve accounts for customers; not adhering to good business principles; and the like, according to the regulatory authority’s records. The firm was sold in 2005.

In 2005 and 2006, Simon worked for Global Crown Capital in San Francisco, which is now out of business. In 2005, two customers charged one of its major owners, Rani T. Jarkas, with churning their accounts, putting them in unsuitable investments, and committing fraud and elder abuse. An arbitration panel found that Global Crown and Jarkas were liable to pay $512,000 to their accusers. Over the years, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority charged the firm with several violations. In 2009, Global Crown dropped its securities registration, owing $1.7 million to customers. That year, Global asserted, “The members of the San Francisco FINRA office have, and are, pursuing a vendetta against Global Crown Capital based on race and nationality discrimination.… The firm believes the San Francisco office is corrupt and intends to pursue legal action against the members of that office.”

FINRA has no comment on the charge and doesn’t know of any lawsuit.

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Comments

stingray April 25, 2012 @ 10:40 a.m.

Judge Bushey should recuse herself from the case, but even if she doesn't it could work in the consumers favor as an obvious conflict of interest would hopefully lead to a host of lawsuits.

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Don Bauder April 25, 2012 @ 12:08 p.m.

Bushey should never have been named administrative law judge in the first place. There are too many conflicts. And in her handling of the case, her pro-SDGE bias has come through loud and clear. If she continues, I hope, as you point out, there will be some lawsuits. Best, Don Bauder

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Burwell April 25, 2012 @ 9:05 p.m.

Sempra greased Peevey and Simon slicker than Carl DeMaio's...........

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Don Bauder April 25, 2012 @ 9:57 p.m.

"...slicker than Carl DeMaio slicked San Diego voters." That must be what you mean, Burwell. Best, Don Bauder

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Burwell April 25, 2012 @ 10 p.m.

That's exactly what I meant. You must have read my mind.

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Don Bauder April 25, 2012 @ 10:04 p.m.

Great minds run in similar channels. Unfortunately, I do not have a great mind. I'm sure you do. Best, don Bauder

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MikeKnell April 25, 2012 @ 10:40 p.m.

Don Bauder, Thanks for an excellent article. I spoke to you awhile back regarding corruption at the CPUC. An email request to meet with the Executive Director of the CPUC resulted in the State Police showing up at my front door. Later, the FBI contacted me to ask about, "the corruption at the CPUC."

I was suppose to have a phone meeting today (April 25) with the Executive Director of the CPUC, regarding Utility documents I photographed, which can be used to prove a Utility committed numerous frauds to conceal problems in its underground infrastructure. One of the frauds the Utility committed, was to declare that a phone number in a document has the last five digits of "85093." I claim the number has the last five digits of "25093." It's an important phone number, google "a fictional phone number."

As a result of the FBI inquiry, Mr. Clanon, the Executive Directory of the CPUC, agreed to speak with me on August 22, 2011. Mr. Clanon told me he would look at the documents. An Email from Commissioner Peevey's Chief of Staff, dated August 22, 2011, prevents anybody at the CPUC from investigating the problems, and requires Mr. Clanon, and only Mr. Clanon, to deal with the issues I have complained about.

From what I have been told by CPUC employees, Peevey is intentionally covering up problems in a Utility's infrastructure.

The email I received today stated, "We will need to reschedule your phonecall with Mr. Clanon. There is a budget crisis & he has been called to travel to Sacramento."

If the Executive Director would admit that a Utility committed frauds in a Formal Complaint, the CPUC could fine the Utility over $200 million, which would help with the budget crisis. Google, "Mike Knell CPUC", and you can see some of the documents I am referring to.

None

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Don Bauder April 26, 2012 @ 10:13 a.m.

I do remember our conversations and the emails you sent me. They were helpful in putting the article together. You have been given a hard time because you are willing to stand up against the CPUC corruption. Good luck. And please continue keeping me informed. Best, Don Bauder

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conanthequasilibertarian April 26, 2012 @ 10:59 a.m.

I wonder how many times (if any) Simon failed the California Bar before he finally passed. Failing the Bar exam multiple times says a lot about a person.

And the rest of that stuff. Talk about "failing up."

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Don Bauder April 26, 2012 @ 1:39 p.m.

I have no idea if he failed the California bar, or how many times he did, before getting his license. Best, Don Bauder

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jrgordonjr April 27, 2012 @ 8:16 a.m.

What a pointless and silly character assassination. There isn't much coming from the CPUC that makes sense - but when a voice of reason peeps through, it usually comes from Simon. The CPUC is certainly anti-customer, but how can you say that the CPUC is pro-utility when it forces asinine regulations and conditions on nearly anything the utilities want to do (see helicopters building sunrise). If the CPUC is pro-anything, it is pro-stupid environmental regulations that cost both utilities and ratepayers a ton. Yet, Simon is typically the voice of reason on that board who recognizes that California's electric bills are among the highest in the nation, but that none of that investment is going to utility infrastructure - it is being used as a de facto tax to fund Sacramento's environmental agenda - and he opposes it (once again, see Sunrise).

Basically, this article attacks the CPUC member who is fighting against everything this article says is wrong with the CPUC.

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Don Bauder April 27, 2012 @ 8:57 a.m.

I strongly disagree with your assessment, but respect your right to state it. I have seen no evidence that Simon is a voice of reason on the CPUC. I do agree that the CPUC is anti-customer -- I've been writing that for a long time. And I deplore that bias. Best, Don Bauder

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Burwell April 27, 2012 @ 3:15 p.m.

Pete Wilson, a Yale Law School graduate, sat for the California Bar exam four times before he passed. Pete likely got into Yale because his father was VP at Ralston Purina. His admission could not have been based on merit. Simon doesn't appear to be any dumber than disgraced former San Diego Mayor Dick Murphy. He was Havard Law and nobody ever accused him of being a rocket scientist. There's a lot of dumb white guys with Ivy league law degrees.

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Don Bauder April 27, 2012 @ 5:08 p.m.

You are right, Burwell: there are dumb white guys with Ivy League law degrees. I would add that are also a lot of dumb -- and thoroughly crooked -- MBAs from Ivy League schools, particularly Harvard. Best, Don Bauder

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ImJustABill April 28, 2012 @ 9:07 a.m.

Not that it would ever happen - but It would be amusing if intelligence tests of political leaders and senior execs of fortune 500 companies were somehow released. Even NFL football players have to (well sort of) take the Wonderlic intelligence test.

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Don Bauder April 28, 2012 @ 1:11 p.m.

I think the test would find some pretty dumb politicos. Their stupidity makes them attractive to voters. In my almost 50 years of interviewing top executives, I have found that those who get to the top of large, publicly held companies are generally smart. However, some who inherited the top job -- often the whole company -- are dumb. Even in public companies, a guy whose daddy controls a huge block of stock might get to the top. If you have a dumb person at the top, you will have even dumber people surrounding him or her -- the exec vps, for example. I have seen this destroy large publicly held companies -- the former Addressograph Multigraph was a classic example. So most CEOs of publicly held companies are intelligent -- greedy and insensitive perhaps, but not stupid.

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