Top Westinghouse executive charged in South Carolina nuclear project failure

State - Regional
Jeff Benjamin (Source: PRNewswire)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WBTW) – A federal grand jury has charged former Westinghouse Senior Vice President Jeff Benjamin for his role in failing to truthfully report information regarding the construction of new nuclear units at the V.C. Summer nuclear plant.

The indictment alleges that Benjamin was personally involved in communications between Westinghouse and its owners, SCANA and Santee Cooper, regarding the status of the V.C. Summer project.  

The indictment further alleges that, throughout 2016 and into 2017, when Westinghouse had direct control over the construction and schedule of the project, Benjamin received information that the V.C. Summer units were materially behind schedule and over budget.  

Nevertheless, at various times from September 2016 through March 2017, the indictment alleges that Benjamin assured the owners that the units would be completed on schedule and took active steps to conceal from the owners damaging information about the project schedule. 

During this time period, the owners paid Westinghouse over $600,000,000 to construct the two V.C. Summer units, both of which were ultimately abandoned.

Benjamin, who served as senior vice president for new plants and major projects and directly supervised all new nuclear projects worldwide for Westinghouse during the V.C. Summer project, is charged in a federal indictment with sixteen felony counts including conspiracy, wire fraud, securities fraud, and causing a publicly-traded company to keep a false record.  

The charges Benjamin faces carry a maximum of twenty years imprisonment and a $5,000,000 fine. 

“Our commitment to investigate and prosecute the V.C. Summer nuclear debacle has never wavered,” said Acting U.S. Attorney DeHart.  “While the indictment – and the allegations contained within – speak for itself, it is further proof of our commitment to seek justice for South Carolina ratepayers and all others affected by the V.C. Summer project failure.”

“This indictment with its attendant allegations and charges is another step toward justice for all those responsible for the V.C. Summer nuclear plant fiasco,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Susan Ferensic.  “The FBI has devoted substantial resources to investigating this matter and will continue to work with the United States Attorney’s Office, the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division, and the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office to find facts and prove criminal conduct.”

Benjamin is the fourth individual to be charged in the ongoing federal investigation, stemming from the exhaustive and multi-year joint investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office, and the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division.  

Former SCANA Chief Executive Officer Kevin Marsh, former SCANA Executive Vice President Stephen Byrne, and former Westinghouse Vice President Carl Churchman have all pleaded guilty to federal felony charges for their roles in the matter.

Assistant United States Attorneys Winston Holliday, Brook Andrews, Emily Limehouse, and Jason Peavy are prosecuting the case.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Trending Stories