Report 2012-118 Recommendation 6 Responses
Report 2012-118: California Public Utilities Commission: Despite Administrative Weaknesses, It Has Generally Awarded Compensation to Intervenors in Accordance With State Law (Release Date: July 2013)
Recommendation #6 To: Public Utilities Commission
Commission staff should complete their effort to develop formal procedures to verify and document the qualifications of intervenors' attorneys and experts. The commission should implement the new procedures to ensure that it awards intervenors an appropriate hourly rate based on verified qualifications.
1-Year Agency Response
In addition to the vetting of attorneys, experts and advocates through the Commissions hearing process, the Commission has implemented procedures for verifying and documenting the qualifications of intervenors attorneys, experts and advocates. Current resumes for each claimed attorney/expert/advocate are required as a part of intervenors requests, and claims must include attorneys state bar license number and history/status. Staff conducts a careful desk review of these resumes to determine years of experience and years appearing before the Commission on which hourly rates will be based. Attorney information is verified by checking state bar web sites for admission date and any actions affecting eligibility.
The employment history of experts and advocates appearing before the Commission for the first time is verified via web-based research by checking websites of companies listed on resumes for experts/advocates biographies or other confirming information. In addition, Google searches of the experts/advocates and publications listed on resumes are performed. Staff spends approximately two hours performing verifying the experience of each new expert /advocate. Staff maintains a list of the attorneys, experts and advocates verified and the method used to perform the verification.
- Completion Date: May 2014
- Response Date: July 2014
California State Auditor's Assessment of 1-Year Status: Fully Implemented
6-Month Agency Response
The CPUC previously reported that it documented and implemented procedures for verifying attorneys and experts qualifications, and submitted its written procedures. The CPUC also revised the Intervenor Compensation Program Guide and Instructions in August 2013, and the request/decision template to collect additional attorney information. This information fully implemented the State Auditors recommendation on procedures for verifying attorney qualifications. However, the State Auditor requested further action on procedures to verify experts qualifications, and considers this recommendation to be partially implemented.
Rule 13.8 of the CPUCs Rules requires experts to include in testimony a statement of their qualifications. The CPUCs evidentiary hearing process permits parties to conduct Voir Dire, where expert witnesses are cross-examined by opposing parties about their qualifications before presenting their opinion testimony. The CPUC believes this process is more effective than a desk review for verifying an experts qualifications because experts are (1) under oath, (2) subject to cross examination by parties and examination by the judge, and (3) are subject to substantial penalties or imprisonment if they are found to have made false statements, pursuant to Rule 1.1 and PU Code 2111 and 2112.
The hearing process ensures an accurate account of a witnesss credentials because the prospect of public exposure and substantial penalties or imprisonment for presenting false information effectively discourages experts from exaggerating/falsifying credentials. Nevertheless, the CPUC is exploring ways to further verify experts qualifications without increasing claim processing time. These include conducting online research on experts not previously appearing before the CPUC or telephone calls to employers listed on an experts resume. The CPUC will test these approaches and report on this effort in the next status report.
- Estimated Completion Date: July 2014
- Response Date: January 2014
California State Auditor's Assessment of 6-Month Status: Partially Implemented
60-Day Agency Response
The ALJ Division has documented and implemented procedures for verifying and documenting intervenors' attorneys' and experts' qualifications (These procedures memos have been submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org). The ALJ Division also revised the Intervenor Compensation Program Guide and Instructions, effective August 1, 2013, and the request/decision template (used by intervenors to submit claims) for additional attorney information (See pages 26 and 34 of Intervenor Compensation Program Guide and Instructions - submitted to email@example.com).
- Completion Date: August 2013
- Response Date: September 2013
California State Auditor's Assessment of 60-Day Status: Partially Implemented
Commission staff have taken steps to verify and document the qualifications of intervenors' attorneys. Staff have also created new procedures to ensure intervenors' experts are submitting information needed to document their relevant qualifications. However, commission staff have yet to implement a process to verify that experts actually possess those qualifications when they request an hourly rate for the first time.
- Auditee did not address all aspects of the recommendation
Agency responses received are posted verbatim.