California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday urged the rejection of new oversight board members at PG&E Corp., which along with combination utility Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) is under dual scrutiny by a Chapter 11 bankruptcy court and others.
Following its Chapter 11 filing in late January, PG&E has been pursuing a "board refreshment" program aimed to replace most of its 13 directors with independent representatives. One of the utility's largest shareholders, BlueMountain Alternatives Master Fund LP, has submitted 13 nominations to be considered at the annual meeting May 21.
No names have been made public, but Newsom criticized the holding company for allegedly considering "hedge fund financiers, out-of-state executives and others with little or no experience in California and inadequate expertise in utility operations." The governor said this showed a desire for "quick Wall Street profits over public safety and reliability.”
In a letter to PG&E interim Chairman John Simon, Newsom wrote, "I strongly urge you to reconsider and appoint board members who understand the imperative for change and the need to prioritize the interests of the people of California.”
In response, PG&E spokesperson James Noonan said, "We also recognize the importance of adding perspectives to the board that will bring about the right changes in safety, as well as help address the serious operation and financial challenges” the operator faces.
In a recent Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing, PG&E said it had extended the deadline for nominating board members until Friday (March 29) and continued to be "actively engaged in constructive discussions with shareholders and other stakeholders."
Separately, PG&E said Senior Vice President Steve Malnight, who handles energy supply and policy, is leaving April 12. Ahead of the bankruptcy filing, PG&E CEO Geisha Williams and several senior members also departed.