PG&E chief executive Geisha Williams steps down as California utility mulls wildfire-related bankruptcy

Protesters march against bailout of PG&E
(Image credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

On Sunday, California gas and electricity giant PG&E announced that chief executive Geisha Williams has stepped down, replaced on an interim basis by John Simon, PG&E's executive vice president and general counsel and a 12-year veteran of the company. PG&E faces as much as $30 billion in liabilities from exposure to the wildfires that devastated Northern California's wine country in 2017 and destroyed the town of Paradise in November, among others. Since November's Camp Fire, the deadliest in California history with 86 dead, PG&E has lost two-thirds of its market value and seen its debt downgraded to junk status.

Williams, 57, had been CEO in March 2017. In that time, PG&E's equipment has been blamed for several wildfires — at least 17 major blasts in 2017, The Wall Street Journal reports. It is so far unclear whether PG&E equipment caused the Camp Fire, but the company has said some of its equipment malfunctioned in the area not long before the fire started. The utility is pursuing financial arrangements to pave the way for a potential multi-billion-dollar Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, and California is weighing stepping in to take over the company, break it up, or bail it out.

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Peter Weber, The Week US

Peter has worked as a news and culture writer and editor at The Week since the site's launch in 2008. He covers politics, world affairs, religion and cultural currents. His journalism career began as a copy editor at a financial newswire and has included editorial positions at The New York Times Magazine, Facts on File, and Oregon State University.