PG&E Execs Land Pay Raises After Bill Spikes, Criminal Conviction

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PG&E bestowed pay raises on several executives during a year in which the company was convicted of crimes related to the fatal San Bruno explosion and amid spikes in monthly bills for customers, according to a regulatory filing Tuesday.

Geisha Williams, who was president of the utility’s electricity operations during the company’s 2016 conviction, harvested $4.2 million in total direct compensation, PG&E disclosed in an official filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. That was 11.8 percent higher than 2015. Last month, Williams became PG&E’s new CEO.

Nickolas Stavropoulos, the president of the utility’s gas operations in 2016, captured $3.9 million in total pay, a jump of 9.2 percent from the year before, the SEC documents show.

Anthony Earley, who was chief executive officer throughout 2016 but exited his post in March, landed $11.7 million in total direct compensation in 2016. That was a 3.8 percent decrease in his compensation from 2015. When he left as CEO, Earley cashed in on $8.3 million in gains from the sale of stock, the SEC filing shows

John Simon, an executive vice president, Edward Halpin, chief nuclear officer, and Dinyar Mistry, a senior vice president, also received pay raises.

PG&E did not respond to a request for comment.

“I’m horrified to see these pay raises,” said Reah High, a resident of Shingle Springs, in El Dorado County, who said she has experienced steep spikes in her PG&E bill. “It’s terrible that PG&E would take so much for themselves and squeeze their customers.”

In addition to naming Williams its first female CEO, PG&E on March 1 appointed Stavropoulos as president and chief operating officer. Earley became executive chairman.

The regulatory disclosure on executive compensation came about three months after PG&E revealed that it had decided to eliminate 450 jobs. Subsequently, official PG&E filings with state labor officials showed that 265 of the lost jobs were located in the Bay Area.

“It is incredibly tone-deaf for PG&E to be giving major pay raises to their executives,” said Mark Toney, executive director of The Utility Reform Network, or TURN, a consumer group. “They had the conviction, the rising utility bills, and let’s also remember that PG&E has laid off several hundred workers.”

San Francisco-based PG&E, as part of her total pay package, awarded Williams $19,951 in transportation services described as necessary to help supply security for her. Stavropoulos received $1,127 for fitness perks, which were described as “health club fees” in a footnote for the filing.

“PG&E does whatever it wants,” said Mark Winshel, a San Lorenzo resident and PG&E customer. “They give executives pay raises even when the company has a criminal conviction on its record.”

In August, PG&E was convicted of six felony counts for crimes the company committed before and after the 2010 San Bruno explosion, which killed eight people and destroyed a residential area.

Prosecutors suggested during that trial that PG&E placed profits ahead of safety, a choice that PG&E’s critics contend contributed to the lethal explosion.

“These pay raises are the baldest case of putting profits before people,” said Liza Tucker, a consumer advocate with Consumer Watchdog. “PG&E has been cutting jobs to fatten profits and reward executives.”

Still, PG&E’s stock performance could be used by some to justify the higher pay. PG&E’s shares jumped 14.3 percent during 2016. During the same year, the S&P 500 utilities index rose 12.2 percent.

“I believe that belt-tightening should start at the top, but that’s not happening with PG&E,” Toney said. “The only ones who have had to tighten their belts are the laid-off employees and the customers.”

George Avalos is a business reporter for the Bay Area News Group.

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