Finance News & Insights

Biz passes buck onto customers — for Rubik's cubes and wine

The head honchos at utility provider National Grid are pushing for the biggest gas rate hike in Massachusetts history, and it’s all happening to cover hundreds of thousands of dollars in outrageous business expenses.

National Grid just asked the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities to sign off on a $106 million-per-year rate hike for 850,000 customers. Depending on the location of their homes, people could expect to pay from 4% to 11% more for their gas.

While reviewing National Grid’s request, DPU stumbled upon at least $300,000 of outlandish business expenses incurred between 2008 and 2010. Included in those expenses:

  • $35,700 to send a VP’s daughters to the private British School of Boston
  • $30,000 for an executive’s medical bills
  • $4,363 for an employee’s trip to Obama’s inauguration
  • $4,000 on company holiday cards
  • $1,602 on framed pictures for the president’s office
  • $1,433 for Rubik’s Cubes that were used as part of a team-building exercise, and
  • $1,254 to ship an employee’s private wine collection from England to the U.S.

Those weren’t the only costs National Grid wanted to pass onto its customers. The company also included coat-check fees and hundreds of charges for $3.50 bottles water into its proposal.

Massachusetts law prohibits utilities from passing on costs to customers, unless those costs directly benefit those paying for them: improved service, equipment upgrades, etc. Unless customers are getting some of that private wine — or at least a Rubik’s Cube — the expenses have no place in the rate hike proposal.

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