Entergy is unique among corporate players in Louisiana in that it is a Fortune 500 company (one of only two in the state) headquartered in New Orleans, it serves a significant customer base in the state, and it is a major political player on both the local and state level.
Louisiana is the second poorest state in the country with a poverty rate around 20%. High levels of poverty and inequality exacerbated by natural crises like Hurricane Katrina in 2005, national economic crises like the debt crisis in 2008, and industry disasters like the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, have left the population vulnerable to the agenda of tax cuts in the name of job creation and economic recovery from the corporate class, which continues to thrive in the state.
Entergy is an investor-owned utility, traded under the ticker symbol ETR on the New York Stock Exchange. Entergy’s stock has consistently gained value, growing from around $72 to $95 per share over from January 2017 to January 2021.
Prominent Wall Street firms Vanguard, BlackRock, and State Street are Entergy’s top three shareholders, together holding 24% of the company. Truwealth Advisors LLC and the Louisiana State Employees Retirement System are the top Louisiana-based investors.
Entergy has three corporate entities headquartered in Louisiana and 2,200 employees statewide. The parent company Entergy Corporation is led by CEO Leo Denault, Entergy Louisiana is led by CEO Philip May, and Entergy New Orleans is led by CEO David Ellis who took over for longtime CEO Charles Rice following a major scandal in 2018. In April 2021 Entergy announced that Ellis will be replaced by Entergy Texas executive Deanna Rodriguez and take another position in the company in May.
In 2019 Entergy CEO Leo Denault took home over $14 million in cash, stock, and other incentives. This generous package represented a $4 million increase over the previous year. This compensation package is over 280 times larger than the median household income in Louisiana and 106 times the median Entergy employee compensation.
In 2019 Entergy’s 11 board members took home an average of $305,000 in cash, stock, and other compensation.
Entergy is a top-level corporate player in the Louisiana power structure – it has representatives on the most prominent chambers, business associations, philanthropic orgs, and even charter school advocacy groups across the state.
Entergy has representatives on the three largest and most active chambers of commerce in the state: the Baton Rouge Chamber of Commerce, One Acadiana (formerly the Greater Lafayette Chamber), and the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce. The agenda for these groups is generally focused on business-oriented goals including charter school expansion, opposition to raising the state minimum wage, protecting the pro-business tax code, investment in transportation infrastructure, and support for the energy industry generally.
Entergy also has representatives (either a CEO or other high-ranking executive) on the boards of the most prominent business associations including Greater New Orleans, Inc (GNO Inc), the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI), and Council for a Better Louisiana (CABL). The agenda for these groups largely center around right-to-work legislation, sales tax exemption for business utilities, workers’ compensation overhaul, and a corporate flat tax.
In addition to policy planning circles and advocacy groups, Entergy’s top executives sit on an array of philanthropic, cultural, and academic boards:
In addition to its socially and politically active executive team, Entergy has a charitable foundation registered in New Orleans, which distributed over $15 Million from 2015 to 2018 largely in the areas where its corporate subsidiaries operate. Notably two prominent charter school networks that have Entergy executives on their boards were among the six organizations to receive grants over $100,000.
Top six 2018 recipients:
The foundation’s 2018 990 filing also notes that it funded a few cultural events in 2018 including Jazz at Lincoln Center Inc and the State of Arkansas’ week of activities around the Martin Luther King Jr holiday.
Entergy is an active player in state politics wherever it operates. This is especially true in its home state of Louisiana where it has 21 active registered lobbyists to push its agenda in Baton Rouge. It is worth noting that industry lobbyists in Louisiana enjoy a unique level of influence due the state’s restrictions on legislative staff. Legislators are permitted a single staff person, meaning that lobbyists, who already have a high level of access, often have a direct line to lawmakers. This access has paid off handsomely for Entergy, which has been granted at least $425 million in tax breaks and subsidies by the Louisiana Legislature from 2008 to 2017.
Following this trend of access, Louisiana campaign finance law permits utilities like Entergy to donate directly to the state regulators – the commissioners of the Louisiana Public Services Commission – that oversee their operations. The significance of this access and potential for conflicts of interest cannot be overstated, as LPSC’s decisions are worth billions to the corporations they regulate. A 2013 report found that between 2009 and 2012 LPSC commissioners received two-thirds of their campaign donations from the industries they regulate, including utilities. In the most recent commissioner race in November 2020, Entergy donated around $50,000 to Eric Skrmetta, the winning incumbent for District 1.
At the Federal level Entergy retains around 25 lobbyists and spent $2.5 million on lobbying in 2020. According to OpenSecrets, around 80% of Entergy’s lobbyists previously worked in government.
Like many other utilities Entergy is an across-the-aisle political donor at the federal level, leaning Republican but giving to both major parties. In 2020 Entergy’s PAC donated equal sums to the National Republican Senatorial and Congressional Committees and the Democratic Senatorial and Congressional Committees. However Entergy’s PAC is not a major federal-level political donor. The PAC donated just $364,500 in the 2020 cycle, up just slightly from the $358,000 it spent in the 2016 cycle.
The ensuing criticism resulted in yet another executive shake up at the company with Entergy New Orleans CEO David Ellis, who has been brought in to replace Charles Rice during a 2018 scandal, being replaced by an Entergy Texas executive.