PG&E CEO resigns as company faces billions in liability

PG&E CEO resigns as company faces billions in liability

The company said Monday that it has only about $1.5 billion in cash and cash equivalents on hand.

The company's board chose to oust CEO Geisha Williams and undergo a restructuring at a board meeting this weekend in San Francisco, according to a source familiar with the matter.

The Chapter 11 filing, the second in the company's history, will allow PG&E to keep operating while it sorts out its ever-growing debt load. It said both the parent corporation, PG&E Corp., and the utility, Pacific Gas and Electric Co., will file for bankruptcy. During her tenure at the helm of the San Francisco-based utility, it accrued more than $30 billion in potential wildfire liabilities, according to analyst estimates. "We believe John is the right interim leader for the company while we work to identify a new CEO".

The company's board of directors has named John Simon Interim Chief Executive Officer as the search for a new CEO continues. Shares were trading at almost $50 before the company disclosed that a faulty transmission tower may have caused the Camp Fire. At least two small gas suppliers have restricted sales to PG&E out of concern that the company won't be able to pay, people with direct knowledge of the situation said last week. PG&E remains committed to assisting the communities affected by wildfires in Northern California, and its restoration and rebuilding efforts will continue.

Williams knew the risks that she faced because of wildfires liabilities. Her departure follows the exit of three PG&E executives earlier this month - Patrick Hogan, senior vice president of electric operations at PG&E's utility unit; Kevin Dasso, vice president of electric asset management; and Gregg Lemler, vice president of electric transmission. At an energy conference last year in Houston she said - jokingly - that if she failed to change a state law on wildfires, "I won't be here in two years". Williams called the doctrine bad public policy that made utilities the default insurer in the state.

"PG&E faces extensive litigation and significant potential liabilities resulting from these wildfires".

PG&E faces widespread litigation, government investigations and liabilities that could potentially reach $30 billion, according to the company, accounting for damage from fires a year ago and in 2017.

Firefighter Jose Corona sprays water as flames from the Camp Fire consume a home in Magalia, Calif., Nov. 9, 2018.

-With assistance from David R. Baker and Peter Blumberg.