When a company is the subject of its own blockbuster movie, it tends not to be good news. Examples of Deepwater Horizon
(BP), The Social Network
(Facebook) and Too Big to Fail
(multiple financial institutions) only serve to promulgate this view. The troubling wildfire-litigation-wildfire cycle playing out between Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), the Californian state and other private bodies might lead one to question how long it will be before PG&E is the subject of its own movie.
Those with long (movie) memories, though, may remember that PG&E has already played a supporting role in the film Erin Brockovich. Contamination of groundwater with cancer-causing hexavalent chromium was found to have been a result of PG&E's poor environmental standards in southern California, further aggravated by a nefarious cover-up operation. Nearly 20 years later, PG&E is once more in the headlines for all the wrong reasons, as its equipment has been linked with multiple major wildfires in recent years.1
This paper highlights the compelling ESG (environmental, social and governance) story that has played out with PG&E bonds in recent years in relation to wildfires in northern California in the United States.
- PG&E Corporation, Investor Page: Wildfire Updates, October 2019.