The deadline for victims of wildfires caused by Pacific Gas & Electric Co.’s (PG&E) equipment to vote on a $13.5 billion settlement with the utility giant is May 15.
PG&E filed for bankruptcy in early 2019, citing billions of dollars in liabilities after its equipment was linked to some of the deadliest fires in the state’s history in 2017 and 2018.
In total, about 250,000 parties are eligible to vote on PG&E’s plan, including fire claimants; certain holders of prepetition-funded debt and other creditors; and shareholders, according to PG&E.
If the plan is approved by a two-thirds vote, and subsequently by a judge on May 27, PG&E is scheduled to emerge from bankruptcy by June 30, the deadline for the company to qualify for a $20 billion state wildfire fund to help pay for future claims.
More than 1,000 claims from victims of the 2015 Butte Fire have yet to be settled. Some claimants had already made an agreement with PG&E right before the bankruptcy filing, but didn’t receive a check, according to Gerald Singleton of Singleton Law Firm, who represents fire victims across the state, including about 300 cases in Calaveras County.
Those cases, along with cases involving elderly and ill individuals or those experiencing extreme financial hardship, would be prioritized for payment, according to Singleton.
“They’ve been in limbo for the past year-and-a-half,” Singleton said. “Everyone’s agreed that they’re the first in line.”
Some victims and their lawyers have opposed the settlement, half of which is to be paid out as shares in PG&E. The company’s stock price has fallen dramatically since late February, around the time the economy started collapsing due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The New York Times reported on April 30 that the opposing group is asking that PG&E either pay the entire $13.5 billion in cash or guarantee the stock portion be worth a minimum of $6.75 billion.
They’re also asking PG&E to formally commit to a timeline for paying out claims, a contingency not currently included in the deal, the Times reported.
Singleton said he thinks “it’s pretty clear the plan’s going to pass,” adding, “It’s by no means perfect, but we believe it’s the best deal that could’ve been gotten under the circumstances.”
Eligible parties should have received voting materials from PG&E, the company stated in a press release. The materials include the bankruptcy court’s order approving PG&E’s disclosure statement and voting materials and procedures; a legal notice advising parties of the May 27, 2020, date of the plan confirmation hearing before the bankruptcy court; PG&E’s court-approved disclosure statement, with respect to PG&E’s plan, with the full plan attached; and a ballot to vote to accept or reject PG&E’s plan and a return envelope with prepaid postage.
Some fire victims that never received a ballot may be included on a master ballot to be submitted by their attorneys.
PG&E is encouraging all parties to review the disclosure statement, a 176-page document that can be accessed here.
All ballots must be received by the court-appointed solicitation agent, Prime Clerk, by May 15, 2020, at 4 p.m. to be counted.
Ballots can be submitted to the Prime Clerk through the balloting portal. Click on the “Submit E-Ballot” link.
Ballots can also be sent by mail or hand delivered to the following address:
PG&E Ballot Processing, c/o Prime Clerk, LLC,
One Grand Central Place
60 East 42nd Street, Suite 1440.
New York, NY 10165
Parties need to email Prime Clerk in advance at firstname.lastname@example.org to coordinate hand delivery.
Voting parties may direct questions regarding the process for submitting ballots to their own legal counsel or Prime Clerk at (888) 909-0100. The Prime Clerk cannot provide legal advice.