Pacific Group & Neil Goldschmidt
Texas Pacific Group, based in Fort Worth, Texas, announced on November 18, 2003
that it had reached an agreement with Enron to buy PGE for $2.35 billion,
including $1.1 billion in debt costs/liabilities. Enron paid $3.1 billion for
PGE in 1997.
Texas Pacific Group is a private company, exempt from SEC or any other
regulatory scrutiny. The company buys distressed companies and then sells them
a few years later for a profit ranging from 20 to 40 percent. Ratepayers can
expect more uncertainty in the future. What steps will Texas Pacific undertake
to maximize its profit during its short-term ownership? One thing is certain,
PGE will experience "revolving door" owners with no guarantee that a
future owner won't be as corrupt as Enron. History shows that the Oregon PUC
won't or can't protect ratepayers.
TPG made no mention of electricity rate cuts during its November 18 news
conference announcing its offer. Bankruptcy Court approval, along with federal
and state regulatory approval, should take until late 2004 or early 2005 and
it's very possible the deal won't go through.
Neil Goldschmidt, a former Oregon governor, is the most well known
public figurehead in the TPG offer. In Texas Pacific's Oregon Public Utility
Commission filing to buy PGE, it stated that Neil Goldschmidt and Tom Walsh of
Oregon, and Gary Grinstein of Washington will invest $2.5 million in the
venture BUT control 95% of the voting stock. At the very least, the three will
more than double their investment in a few years when Texas Pacific sells
Portland General. There's a strategic reason for the three's control over
voting stock, that being that Oregon PERS, who is investing at least $300
million (71 percent of Texas Pacific's total investment) will have almost no
say in what the company does.
In addition, the three Northwesterners will profit in other ways through
the companies they own or control. That could be the big payoff for them in the
long run. Goldschmidt is already on Texas Pacific's payroll. Tom Walsh owns a
construction company and Gary Grinstein controls numerous businesses.
Goldschmidt is a lobbyist and senior partner in the firm Goldschmidt
Imeson Carter. Whenever a major business deal occurs in Oregon, there's a good
likelihood Goldschmidt or his firm is involved in some way. He helped facilitate
the sale of Oregon's Willamette Industries to Weyerhaeuser, an out-of-state
company, at a cost of at least 500 Oregon jobs. Goldschmidt also headed a
commission for Energy Northwest to find buyers for electricity that could be
produced by the mothballed Hanford. Will the Trojan Nuclear Plant be
In early 2003, Goldschmidt was hired to co-chair a national airline
industry coalition to push a bill in Congress that would ban the right of
airline unions to strike.
Oregon's quasi-public State Accident Insurance Fund (SAIF) disclosed in
November 2003 that they hired Goldschmidt in 1996 as a consultant. He was first
paid hourly, then given a contract valued at $5,000 a month, and eventually
received $20,000 a month. Goldschmidt received at least $1.1 million as SAIF's
consultant/lobbyist. The insurer has acknowledged that it did not follow normal
procedures for state contracts.
Sen. Vicki Walker, D-Eugene, filed an ethics complaint on December 5,
2003 over the contracts with the state Government Standards and Practices
Commission. Walker’s complaint alleges that the payments to Goldschmidt and
Larry Campbell, another lobbyist, were over $1 million more than what SAIF
previously reported. Goldschmidt canceled his contract with SAIF on the same
day the complaint was filed. As SAIF and Goldschmidt have admitted there's no
written work product (what he did to receive such an enormous payoff) we may
never know the extent of his activities against the best interests of Oregon
While governor in 2000, Goldschmidt was a driving force behind enactment
of Senate Bill 1197, a major workers' compensation system overhaul. The major
provision of the bill, exclusive remedy, was found unconstitutional in 1995. SB
1197 provided negligent employers immunity from civil claims even when injury
claims were denied completely by the workers' compensation system.
Neil Goldschmidt's wife Diana is a member of the Oregon Investment
Council. It decides where the Oregon Public Employees Retirement Fund and other
state funds are invested. Just days before Goldschmidt became involved with the
Texas group according to statements he's made, the Council approved an
additional $300 million to be invested with Texas Pacific Group. Diana
Goldschmidt voted to approve the amount, $100 million over the normal cap for a
single investment. Oregon now has $950 million invested with the Texas group.
Oregon PERS lost $80 million due to Enron's bankruptcy, caused in large part by
Because Goldschmidt carries so much power in political circles and will
have a personal economic stake in maximizing profits, ratepayers can expect to
be gouged once again as they were by PGE's 41 percent rate increase in October
2001, the result of energy trading fraud.
Update: Since written, Goldschmidt has resigned and Texas Pacific Group has
offered a miniscule $43 million in rate relief to customers. Oregon's
Department of Justice investigated Diana Goldschmidt and the Oregon Investment
Council on its additional $300 million investment with Texas Pacific. The
"limited" investigation found little wrong. In addition, previously
secret papers revealed that Texas Pacific expected to make a $1 billion profit
(as much as 38.4 percent a year) if it held onto PGE for five years. On
3/10/2005, the Oregon PUC rejected the Texas Pacific purchase of PGE as not
being in the public interest.