PG&E Fire Victims Warn Market Turmoil Endangers Their Settlement

By Mark Chediak | March 26, 2020

Market turmoil from the coronavirus is spilling into the bankruptcy of California power giant PG&E Corp.

Victims of wildfires blamed on PG&E’s equipment are concerned the sell-off on Wall Street could hobble stock payments that make up half of a $13.5 billion settlement over claims from the blazes, said Robert Julian, an attorney for the victims.

Lawyers for the victims are being “inundated with questions” from clients because the “coronavirus is causing these impacts in real time,” he said during a bankruptcy hearing Wednesday. The attorneys have entered into mediation to resolve how long the victims’ trust will be required to hold shares, the impact of the sell-off and other issues.

“The victims need to know these facts in order to vote on the plan,” Julian said.

PG&E shares have lost about half their value in the past month. They rose 4% to $9.18 at 3:09 p.m. In New York.

PG&E is preparing to send out disclosure information about its reorganization plan to about 250,000 shareholders, wildfire victims and other creditors who will vote on the proposal, an attorney for the company said today. The utility is racing to get its bankruptcy plan approved by the court and state regulators before a state deadline of June 30.

The wildfire victims would like to have additional information distributed about stock payments once their issues are resolved, Julian said. PG&E attorney Stephen Karotkin said there was adequate disclosure information about the stock awards in the voting materials.

“To the extent that people think additional disclosure is required, then they can bring it before court,” Karotkin said during the hearing, conducted by telephone to prevent the virus from spreading.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Dennis Montali said he wouldn’t take action until he received a motion on the additional stock disclosure materials.

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