Home Illinois How ex-ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore went from rising corporate star to defendant...

How ex-ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore went from rising corporate star to defendant in bombshell corruption case – Chicago Tribune


Of all the players in the sprawling ComEd bribery investigation, the powerful politicians, connected lobbyists, precinct captains, consultants and door knockers, it’s the business executive with the background in theater who stands out as miscast in the still-unfolding drama.

Former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore, a theater major from central Ohio who became a rising star in the male-dominated corporate world, often came off as a brainy mix of business savvy and homespun directness that put people, including public officials, at ease.

Pramaggiore seemingly rose to the challenge when she inherited a massive utility that had been floundering in the late 2000s, with aging infrastructure prone to widespread power outages and growing dissatisfaction from its 3.8 million customers.

But to pull the company up, prosecutors allege, she made a calculated decision to embrace the Springfield power structure, joining forces with then-House Speaker Michael Madigan of Chicago and his straight-from-central-casting cronies.

Now, Pramaggiore, 64, finds herself in the most unlikely of roles. She’s among the criminal defendants in one of the biggest political corruption scandals the state has ever seen: “The ComEd Four,” who go on trial this week.

Her indictment in 2020 on allegations that she participated in a widespread scheme to influence Madigan by funneling payments and other perks to his associates capped a fall from grace that left many in Chicago’s business and legal community stunned.

The disconnect between Pramaggiore’s public persona and the actions described in the indictment has only deepened as recently surfaced emails and wiretapped conversations from the investigation portrayed her as someone at ease with Illinois’ old-school, “where’s mine” pay-to-play political system.

In some of the conversations that jurors in the trial will hear, Pramaggiore even adopts the some of the vernacular of her co-defendants, sounding more like a hard-boiled character in an old gangster movie than a button-down chief executive.

“You take good care of me, and so does our friend, and I will do the best that I can to, to take care of you. You’re a good man,” Pramaggiore allegedly told co-defendant Michael McClain in one September 2018 secretly recorded call, referring to Madigan as “our friend” instead of by name.

Pramaggiore, of Barrington, is charged with bribery conspiracy along with McClain, longtime former ComEd lobbyist John Hooker, and Jay Doherty, a consultant, lobbyist and former head of the City Club of Chicago.

The indictment alleged the defendants orchestrated a scheme to funnel jobs and hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments from the utility to Madigan-approved consultants in exchange for Madigan’s assistance with legislation the utility giant wanted passed, or blocked, in Springfield.

The indictment also alleged ComEd agreed to hire numerous summer interns from Madigan’s 13th Ward, and install former McPier boss Juan Ochoa on the company’s board of directors in order to curry favor with the then-powerful speaker.

Pramaggiore, who has pleaded not guilty to all counts, could face years behind bars if convicted.

In a statement released after she was charged, Pramaggiore’s defense team wrote that she “unequivocally rejects the government’s charges that she engaged in unlawful behavior” and looked forward to a “truthful accounting of the facts in this matter.”

The statement also touted her “distinguished” career, saying she “led the complete turnaround of the utility from one of the nation’s worst performing to one of its best,” and drove dramatic improvements in reliability, consumer value and employee engagement.

The daughter of a civil engineer father and mother who was president of the local PTO, Pramaggiore has described her childhood in Dayton, Ohio, as a “quiet, suburban upbringing with good schools.”

In an interview with the Tribune in 2013, Pramaggiore said she devoured books about the Vietnam War and Watergate in her youth, captivated by the larger social and cultural changes that eventually influenced her decision to go to law school.

Pramaggiore earned her bachelor’s degree from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, a classic, redbrick college town about an hour’s drive from Dayton, where she majored in theater and excelled in costume design and makeup.

“I really loved the group dynamic,” she told the Tribune. “You always had this very clear goal — that was, to get the play done and get it done well.”

After graduation, she returned to Dayton and worked in retail management, first in her hometown and later in Louisville. She moved to the Chicago area and attended the DePaul College of Law, where she edited the school’s law review and was later hired to do antitrust work at a Chicago law firm.

Anne Pramaggiore, then-president and chief operating officer of Commonwealth Edison, at her office in Chicago on Oct. 9, 2009.

From there, Pramaggiore was recruited by ComEd to oversee deregulation in the utility market. She was quickly identified as a leader and given a series of increasingly high-profile positions, from co-leading a team to determine how power would be purchased in the future to managing the company’s external affairs.

Along with the growing workload came frequent trips to Springfield, 4:30 a.m. wake-up calls, and sometimes a long drive home for her son’s soccer match, only to return to the Capitol the next day.

When Pramaggiore managed to take time off, she rode horses, explaining in her Tribune interview: “It’s pretty intense. When I ride, I can’t think about anything else, because it takes all my attention. You know, you’ve got this 1,500-pound animal who — they’re flighty. A paper bag blows across in front of them, and they’re running the other way at 35 miles per hour. So you really have to have your wits about you.”

Pramaggiore became president of ComEd in 2009 and was named CEO in 2012, earning her frequent mention as one of the top female executives in the state. Her former boss, Frank Clark Jr., told the Tribune he saw in her a woman with vision and the ability to inspire others.

“You know how you identify a leader?” Clark said. “People are willing to follow them.”

Following a summer storm in 2011, Pramaggiore found out the rage unleashed on the giant utility when 850,000 people were left without power, some for days, waiting on hold for hours to find out when their lights would come back on.

Customers ranted about ComEd on Facebook and Twitter, complained to mayors, state representatives, and the local fire and police.

For Pramaggiore, the CEO in waiting, it was a blaring wake-up call: Customers hated the utility.

“We heard our customers loud and clear that summer,” Pramaggiore said in her 2013 interview with the Tribune. “Everything else in the world is instantaneous, and they don’t understand why they have to sit and wait without power or information.”

She helped assemble a storm assessment team that made a series of dramatic moves to improve service and communication with customers through texts, calls, smartphone aps and other social media.

ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore speaks at the City Club of Chicago on Nov. 12, 2012.

In a 2012 speech to the City Club of Chicago, where she was introduced by Doherty, her future co-defendant, Pramaggiore said the company was able to turn its customer satisfaction around. “I’ve got a lot of ComEd folks here who worked very hard this summer to make that happen, and I want to commend them for that. It was tremendous work.”

But there were other pressures at work as well. At the same time, ComEd’s parent company, Exelon Corp., wanted more revenue from ComEd and its other regulated utilities and was looking to lawmakers to give the company a way to generate a steady, predictable stream of income.

It was amid that backdrop that Pramaggiore, according to prosecutors, chose to ally herself with Madigan and get things done.

At trial, two of Pramaggiore’s top colleagues at ComEd, former Vice President Fidel Marquez and an in-house lawyer referred to in court records only as “LD-1,” are expected to lay out for the jury how their boss built a strategy to win in the legislature rather than through the Illinois Commerce Commission.

Pramaggiore, the witnesses are expected to say, viewed all aspects of ComEd’s business through a political lens, and thought Madigan was the most important legislator to have on your side.

Pramaggiore would say things such as, “What’s important to the speaker is important to us,” according to prosecutors, a message that “would be repeated at meetings concerning legislative, regulatory and management issues.”

LD-1 is also expected to testify that Pramaggiore often “relied on an inner circle” to make decisions concerning political strategy, a group that included McClain and Hooker, but not the ComEd’s senior management.

Marquez, the senior vice president who has pleaded guilty in the case, is expected to testify that Pramaggiore “did not want anyone from ComEd to anger Madigan,” according to prosecutors.

“Pramaggiore viewed Madigan as immensely powerful in the General Assembly and wanted him to be favorably disposed toward ComEd, and it was not uncommon for her to ask what Madigan’s position was on an issue,” prosecutors wrote in a recent court filing characterizing Marquez’s expected testimony.

Marquez is expected to testify that he understood that “pleasing Madigan” was part of a culture aimed at “making sure Madigan was favorably disposed to ComEd, and not negatively disposed to the company,” according to prosecutors.

Pramaggiore’s relationship with Madigan allegedly grew friendlier over time, and she even traveled with the speaker to Turkey as part of a trip with several Illinois officials, prosecutors said.

Pramaggiore also explored ways to put Madigan’s former chief of staff, Tim Mapes, into a job where she could “hide his contract in someone else’s” after he was ousted by Madigan following accusations of sexual harassment, prosecutors alleged.

Mapes was charged in 2021 with lying to a federal grand jury about the case and is awaiting trial.

Prosecutors also intend to show how Pramaggiore’s relationship with Madigan and McClain allegedly helped her further not only ComEd’s goals, but propel her own promotion to the utility’s parent company, Exelon, representing the apex of her career.

In one recorded call in May 2018, according to the filing, Pramaggiore thanked McClain profusely for her promotion, saying, “the only reason I am in this position is because ComEd has done so well, and you guys have been my, my spirit guides. … I love you guys.”

As she moved up the corporate ladder, Pramaggiore became a fixture in civic life as well. She was a sought after speaker, and served on various civic boards, including the Chicago Federal Reserve Board, the Art Institute of Chicago, DePaul University, Chicago Urban League and Lincoln Park Zoo.

Exelon Utilities CEO Anne Pramaggiore greets Energy Subcommittee Chairman Bobby Rush, D-Ill., prior to testifying before the House Energy & Commerce Committee at the Rayburn House Office Building on Feb. 27, 2019, in Washington.

But her eventual ascension from the top job at ComEd to Exelon Utilities CEO also presented problems, since the new ComEd boss was sure to red-flag the massive payments flowing to Doherty’s subcontractors, money that prosecutors say was intended to illegally influence the speaker.

In a recorded conversation in early February 2019, Marquez, who by then was cooperating with investigators, warned Pramaggiore he was going to have to bring it up with the new boss, according to the recent prosecution filing.

She cut him off, explaining that the best route was to acknowledge it might be time to “make a switch” with the subcontracts, but not to rock the boat until after the legislative session was over, the filing stated.

“Let’s look at this in terms of going forward to next year because we do not want to get caught up in a, you know, disruptive battle where, you know, somebody gets their nose out of joint and we’re trying to move somebody off and then we get forced to give ‘em a five-year contract because we’re in the middle of needing to get something done in Springfield,” Pramaggiore told Marquez, according to a transcript of the call in court records.

Afternoon Briefing


Chicago Tribune editors’ top story picks, delivered to your inbox each afternoon.

In October 2019, eight months after that conversation, Pramaggiore abruptly retired after ComEd acknowledged it had received a second federal subpoena from the U.S. attorney’s office in the ongoing criminal investigation.

In a statement at the time, Exelon’s president thanked her for her “valuable service to Exelon and ComEd and the important contributions she made to enhance our utility operations throughout her tenure.”

Her legal team, meanwhile, characterized the investigation as without merit.

“After enduring months of baseless innuendo and misinformation, (Pramaggiore) … is confident a review will reaffirm her unwavering adherence to the highest ethical standards and finally put to rest the damaging speculation that any actions she took constitute illegal activity,” their statement released after she was charged read.





Previous articleSmoke detectors save lives, but Chicago has slow-walked efforts to toughen rules – Chicago Tribune
Next articlePhotos from the red carpet