The Securities and Exchange Commission has opened an investigation into accounting for Pacific Gas and Electric’s losses related to three years of wildfires in Northern California, the utility reported to shareholders.
PG&E told investors that it learned in March that researchers at the S.E.C.’s regional office in San Francisco had begun reviewing public disclosures and accounting by the utility and its parent company for the 2015 Butte Fire as well as wildfires in 2017 and 2018.
PG&E, the largest utility in California with 16 million customers, was convicted of six crimes following a 2010 gas pipeline explosion that killed eight people and devastated a San Bruno neighborhood in the Bay Area.
A judge of the Federal District Court held hearings on PG&E’s operations after state regulators found that the company had violated its probation by falsifying reports since the explosion about its gas operations. In January, its second time in 20 years, PG&E filed for bankruptcy after determining that it faced $30 billion in wildfire-related liabilities. PG&E’s troubles led its chief executive to step down that month, replacing the management board.
The S.E.C. investigation “will create a lot of trust complications,” said Jamie Court, Consumer Watchdog president of a California non-profit advocacy organization. “You now have the S.E.C. in your books. That’s a problem even worse than it had. You cannot have confidence in PG&E.”
PG&E refused to comment on its submission or investigation. The filing noted that the firm was unable to predict the investigation’s timing or outcome.
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