CEO of California utility PG&E resigns as firm faces liability over wildfires

14 January, 2019, 19:11 | Author: Eric Barnett
  • PG&E may notify its employees this week of potential bankruptcy

John Simon, who served as PG&E's executive vice president and general counsel, will now be the utility's interim CEO until the board finds a permanent replacement and said the utility's "single most important responsibility" is safety.

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. - (AP) - A newspaper says employees of Pacific Gas and Electric could learn this week if the utility will declare insolvency while facing billions of dollars in liability over its role in recent California wildfires.

PG&E has already asked state regulators for a $1 billion rate hike, beginning in 2020, to help cover the increased costs of improving its fire safety.

The departure of Williams, 57, was announced Sunday, hours before the company said it was notifying workers it could file for bankruptcy within weeks.

PG&E said they do not expect the move to effect electric or natural gas service for its customers as a result of the proceedings.

State fire investigators blamed the utility's power lines for causing a number of California wildfires past year and in 2017. Investigators have been probing whether the power giant's equipment ignited the fire, along with its potential liability for blazes that devastated Northern California's wine country in 2017 - costs that "could exceed US$30 billion", according to the filing. On Sunday, the company started searching for a new leader after Geisha Williams, 57, quit as CEO.

Shares in the company are expected to fall by more than 50% when trading begins on Monday. The board concluded that a Chapter 11 reorganization "is ultimately the only viable option to restore PG&E's financial stability", according to the filing. PG&E remains committed to assisting the communities affected by wildfires in Northern California, and its restoration and rebuilding efforts will continue.

The full press release from PG&E can be found on its website.

The company does not expect bankruptcy to interfere with providing its customers with power and other services, the company said in a statement Monday. In a PG&E report last month, the company outlined how employees discovered damaged power towers minutes before the Camp Fire broke out.

The daughter of Cuban political refugees, Williams became the nation's first Latina CEO of a Fortune 500 company when she took over PG&E.

"PG&E faces extensive litigation and significant potential liabilities resulting from these wildfires". The Nov. 8 fire destroyed Paradise and killed 86 people, more than any other in state history.


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