SAN FRANCISCO — After the announcement of her departure, PG&E’s Chief Executive Officer is leaving with $2.5 million in severance while the company handles issues ranging from bankruptcy plans to litigation from Camp Fire survivors.
Geisha Williams was hired as the company’s CEO back in March 2017, moving up from President, Electric of Pacific Gas and Electric Company. She had led all aspects of the electric business at the company before being hired as CEO and carried 30 years of utility experience.
PG&E announced Williams' departure on Sunday.
“On behalf of the Board, I want to thank Geisha for her service and her tireless commitment to our employees and the 16 million Californians we serve,” said Richard C. Kelly, Chair of the Board of PG&E Corporation in a statement.
PG&E has this officer severance policy to attract and retain senior management, to provide consistent treatment for all terminated officers, and to minimize potential litigation costs connected to employment terminations.
Generally, the PG&E officer severance policy provides a cash severance of one year's salary and target Short-Term Incentive Plan bonus.
“She also will receive accrued pension benefits, the same as any employee of the company,” confirmed James Noonnan, a PG&E spokesperson.
Williams' departure comes the day before PG&E announced plans to begin Chapter 11 bankruptcy. They believe the process will help support a resolution to potential liabilities from 2017 and 2018 Northern California wildfires.
In 2017, state fire investigators blamed the utility’s power lines for causing a number of wildfires in California in October of that year. They were blamed for 12 of the state’s 2017 wine county wildfires.
In 2018, former Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that allowed PG&E to offset costs by increasing customer’s monthly bills. The company is also facing lawsuits for the 2018 Camp Fire.
The Camp Fire’s cause has not been determined, but, if the company is found to be liable, they could face a scope of charges if a jury finds "criminal negligence" or "recklessness" on PG&E's part.
Charges could include failing to clear vegetation from a power line or pole, starting a wildfire, involuntary manslaughter, or implied-malice murder.
With Williams' departure, the PG&E Board of Directors have named John Simon as Interim CEO.
Simon has served previously served as Executive Vice President and General Counsel since 2017. He's been with the company since 2007.
PG&E says the search for a new CEO will be focused on "extensive operational and safety expertise".
“While the Board conducts its CEO search, our priority will be keeping the company focused on further improving safety while continuing to provide reliable service to our customers,” Simon said in a statement.
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