Despite its threatened bankruptcy, Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s board of directors just gave a top gas executive a hefty pay raise, according to federal regulatory records, even though that executive was recently called in to account for allegations the company filed thousands of false records.
Jesus Soto, who was hired two years after the 2010 San Bruno gas line disaster, will have his $500,000 dollar salary increased to $575,000 under action taken Friday by the company’s board of directors. Soto serves as senior vice president over gas operations.
The move to bolster his salary comes amid turmoil at the company, which already defaulted on some of the settlements it has reached with past fire victims.
The company’s CEO, Geisha Williams, resigned earlier this month.
Last year, Nick Stavropoulos, a gas executive recruited after San Bruno who later became president of the company, retired — not long after being called in to answer for tens of thousands of falsified records in the company’s 811 mark and locate program.
Soto was also ordered to testify before regulators about that program, records show.
Regulators say company managers exerted pressure on workers to file reports stating they had responded to “mark and locate” inspections of buried gas lines within the two-day deadline set by state law.
The company has said it had made unspecified management changes in the troubled program, which is still under investigation by the state Public Utilities Commission. A federal judge in charge of PG&E’s criminal probation, in the case arising out of the San Bruno gas explosion, has cited the company’s history of falsified records as he calls for it to re-inspect its electrical system in advance of the start of the fire season in June.
“PG&E again has their priorities misplaced,” said a stunned State Sen. Jerry Hill, a frequent critic of the company. “They are running away from fire victims with bankruptcy but rewarding their top managers for falsification of records. Something’s wrong here, something’s really wrong here.”
PG&E issued a statement explaining the $75,000 pay raise for Soto.
PG&E sets executive compensation to be comparable with similar companies in the industry. Executive compensation generally comprises base pay and incentive compensation.
Historically, we have not requested customers to pay for any incentive compensation for any officers. These costs are all funded by PG&E shareholders. Beginning in 2019, shareholders are also funding all officers’ base pay compensation.
As Senior Vice President, Gas Operations, Mr. Soto has an increasingly important role overseeing safety, compliance and risk for gas operations, as well as cybersecurity, physical security and supply chain for the entire company.
PG&E has said it intends to file for bankruptcy by Jan. 29.