SAN FRANCISCO, Calif — Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) plans on asking a federal bankruptcy judge in San Francisco to approve a plan to give nearly $11 million in bonuses, combined, to 12 top executives.
How much of those bonuses execs would receive would depend on how well the company follows a wildfire safety plan.
PG&E says this would provide incentives to the company's leaders to fulfill safety, financial and operational goals.
But here's the thing. In PG&E's proposed reward plan, even if the company doesn't meet all of the safety guidelines, the executives will still get a bonus - just less of it.
For example, PG&E's Executive Vice President of Law, Strategy and Policy, John Simon, makes a base salary of $695,000. Under the incentive plan PG&E wants the judge to approve, Simon will receive an additional $1,834,000 if the company meets its safety targets. If safety targets aren’t met, Simon will still receive half of that, or $917,000.
PG&E argues the plan provides incentives for the executives to ensure the safe and reliable operation of the business, in addition to maximizing economic benefits for all stakeholders – including wildfire claimants. And, PG&E says, this is in line with standard company bonus structures. The only difference, of course, is that PG&E is a company going through bankruptcy proceedings.
PG&E is currently scheduled to make its case for this incentive plan to a bankruptcy judge on the morning of Fri., Aug. 9 in US Bankruptcy Court in San Francisco.
The Utility Reform Network (TURN), a consumer advocacy group, will also be in court, fighting against PG&E’s plan to reward its executives for following safety plans.
“For PG&E to ask for more money for executives while many victims of the Camp Fire are living in tents or trailers adds insult to injury,” TURN’s Executive Director Mark Toney wrote in a media release. “If PG&E has extra money, it should go toward victims who desperately need it.”
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“It certainly doesn’t look to the public like they deserve bonuses, or should need incentives to stop starting fires,” Toney wrote. “The highly paid top brass at PG&E has suffered few consequences for all the suffering the company has wrought. Rewarding them obviously sends the wrong message.”
TURN wants the judge to reject PG&E's executive incentive plan. At the very least, TURN says it wants the judge to delay deciding on whether the approve the plan until PG&E's deadline to answer two questions related to political spending and equipment inspections.
PG&E originally had until Wednesday, July 31 to answer about its recent campaign donations to California politicians — an issue brought to the judge's attention by ABC10's Brandon Rittiman — and why the company failed to maintain inspections on certain equipment.
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Editor's note: This story originally stated that PG&E hadn't yet written its wildfire plan yet. It did file one in January 2019. ABC10 is sorry for the error. Assembly Bill 1054, which became law in July, requires PG&E and California’s two other major electric utilities to file more comprehensive, three-year wildfire mitigation plans starting in 2020. That newly-required expanded plan has not yet been submitted.