State ex rel. Praxair, Inc. v. Mo. Pub. Serv. Comm'nAnnotate this Case
The Public Service Commission (PSC) approved Great Plain Energy's acquisition of Aquila, a Missouri utility company. Before approval was granted, Praxair, AG Processing, and Sedalia Industrial Energy Users' Association (collectively, Praxair) intervened. During evidentiary hearings, Great Plains, Aquila, and a subsidiary of Great Plains filed a motion to limit the scope of the proceedings, seeking to preclude any evidence as to their gift and gratuity policies. The regulatory law judge granted the motion, finding the evidence was wholly irrelevant to the merger. After the merger was approved, Praxair and the Office of Public Counsel filed petitions for writs of review. The circuit court affirmed the regulatory law judge's order. After opinion by the court of appeals, the Supreme Court granted transfer. The Court affirmed, holding (1) while the evidence as to Great Plains' gift policy should have been admitted, its exclusion was not prejudicial as the gift policy could not have substantially impacted the weight of the evidence evaluated to approve the merger; and (2) although certain PSC commissioners who heard the merger application had been subject to ex parte contact with executives from Great Plains, Public Counsel did not overcome the presumption that the PSC acted impartially.