U.S. judge defers hearing on PG&E $350 million bonus plan

April 9, 2019

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – A U.S. bankruptcy judge on Tuesday deferred a ruling on whether to approve or reject a motion by PG&E Corp to pay up to $350 million in bonuses to 10,000 employees after the power producer said the plan excluded senior executives and would help it fight devastating wildfires.

The judge set April 23 for the next hearing. The judge said he wants more details about how the plan would work.

PG&E shares rose 0.4% to $18.90 in after-hours trading.

The plan covers 2019 and takes the place of a previously proposed 2018 bonus program for some 14,000 employees that PG&E scuttled after criticism from wildfire victims and their lawyers. The U.S. Trustee, the government’s bankruptcy watchdog, had also objected to the new plan, saying it did not make clear insiders are excluded and expressing concern about its cost.

San Francisco-based PG&E sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January facing the prospect of potentially billions of dollars in liabilities stemming from wildfires in California in recent years linked or suspected to be linked to its equipment.

The investor-owned power provider has said it expects its equipment will be found to have caused November’s Camp Fire, California’s deadliest and most destructive wildfire. The blaze killed 86 people and destroyed the town of Paradise.

Half of the plan’s formula for calculating bonuses is pegged to how well employees help PG&E meet safety goals like clearing trees and branches around power lines to avert contact that triggers wildfires.

(Reporting by Jim Christie; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)

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