I read in disbelief a Dow Jones Newswire article that described the leveraged buyout of Cleco by a group of “infrastructure investors” at Macquarie and John Hancock Financial. … What a joke and a farce!!

The folks at Macquarie are not “infrastructure investors” at all. This is an Australian hedge fund. They are takeover artists, who have a recent track record of using the infrastructure of independent public utility companies as collateral to borrow billions of dollars, and then they use that borrowed money as further collateral to borrow even more money.

This hedge fund is intent on borrowing money in what they see as a rising interest rate climate in this country, and they will do anything to get their hands on the infrastructural collateral needed to carry out their doubly leveraged scheme at this time. They will not invest in any new infrastructure at all because they’re only in it for the money. This is evidenced by the large stock price premium and huge golden parachutes being given to Cleco shareholders and executives … with borrowed money, if and when this deal closes.

Macquarie especially targets companies in lax regulatory environments, like Louisiana. They are going to suck all the equity they can out of Cleco and then flip the crippled shell within eight to 10 years, enriching themselves every step along the way, and they will leave behind a high indebted electric utility that will not even be able to replace its aged and highly polluting power plants. The consequences of this recklessness will ultimately fall upon Cleco ratepayers and Louisiana taxpayers.

It is amazing to me that such a cannibalistic financial scheme involving a public utility company is even legal, and it’s pathetic that the majority of our state’s public service commissioners were so foolish to fall for it. Cleco already is the most highly polluting electric utility company in our state, having contaminated the air, water and soil in much of central Louisiana with mercury, lead, arsenic and sulfur dioxide from lignite, coal, petcoke and buried coal ash.

This merger only passed because Commissioner Foster Campbell changed his vote. I am calling on our Public Service Commission to rehear this case again, and this time, Campbell should be intent on doing what is right for the long-term good of all of Louisiana, especially if he is indeed intent on seeking higher office as our U.S. senator.

Brian Salvatore

professor of chemistry