PG&E wanted to give top execs $16 million in bonuses. Here’s what the judge said

A bankruptcy judge denied PG&E Corp.’s proposal to pay up to $16 million in bonuses to a select group of top executives Friday.

Bankruptcy Judge Dennis Montali said that, in light of the billions in wildfire claims and other problems the utility is facing, the executives shouldn’t need extra incentives to improve Pacific Gas & Electric Co.’s performance on safety and other issues.

“There is simply no justification for diverting additional ... funds to incentive them to do what they should already be doing,” Montali wrote.

The proposed bonuses were opposed by wildfire victims’ lawyers, San Francisco city officials and others. The bonuses would have covered a dozen executives, all of whom make at least $307,000 a year. Bill Johnson, the utility’s chief executive officer, wasn’t in the group.

In April, the judge approved a $235 million bonus plan for thousands of rank-and-file employees. The bonus program is heavily weighted toward meeting safety goals, and the company argued it needs to pay the bonuses to promote stability within the workforce.

PG&E filed for bankruptcy in January, saying it couldn’t afford liability claims that piled up after the 2017 wine country fires and November’s Camp Fire, which destroyed much of the town of Paradise and killed 86 people.

Dale Kasler covers climate change, the environment, economics and the convoluted world of California water. He also covers major enterprise stories for McClatchy’s Western newspapers. He joined The Bee in 1996 from the Des Moines Register and graduated from Northwestern University.