Justice and Economics – Both needed to forge change

Go Lean Commentary

Duels are now a thing of the past – Yippee!!!

Modern civilizations would not tolerate people using violence to avenge their honor or property loss. The new way is to sue in the Court of Law …

… lawsuits are even prevalent when there is the Wrongful Death of an individual:

Wrongful death is a claim against a person who can be held liable for a death.[1] The claim is brought in a civil action, usually by close relatives, as enumerated by statute. …
Many wrongful death claims are based upon death resulting from negligence, for example following a motor vehicle accident caused by another driver, a dangerous roadway or defective vehicle, or medical malpractice.[2] Dangerous roadway claims result from deaths caused in whole or in part by the condition of the roadway.[3]
Source: Retrieved January 30, 2019 from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wrongful_death_claim

While the life of a loved one cannot be substituted for money, it does help to bring justice to the survivors that there is a judgment that “someone” has to pay.

But what if there was a “magic bullet” that can just swipe out the accountability of a valid Wrongful Death claim. There is …

… it’s called bankruptcy!

See this actuality portrayed in this news article here about the recent forest fires in California. People died; there is corporate negligence; there should be a reckoning, accountability and justice. See the full article and VIDEO here:

Title: PG&E to file for bankruptcy following devastating California wildfires
Company blames liabilities, reconstruction costs and ‘increase in wildfire risk resulting from climate change’
By: Hamza Shaban and Steven Mufson

California’s largest power company intends to file for bankruptcy as it faces tens of billions of dollars in potential liability after massive wildfires devastated parts of the state over the past two years, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Pacific Gas and Electric said Monday that declaring insolvency is “ultimately the only viable option to restore PG&E’s financial stability to fund ongoing operations and provide safe service to customers.”

The California wildfires, which have killed dozens of people and destroyed thousands of homes, have led to a surge in insurance claims. PG&E estimates that it could be held liable for more than $30 billion, according to the SEC filing, not including potential punitive damages, fines or damages tied to future claims. The company’s wildfire insurance for 2018 was $1.4 billion.

The PG&E bankruptcy promises to be more complex and political than most bankruptcies, pitting fire victims, ratepayers, bankers, insurance companies and renewable-energy providers against one another. Homeowners with property insurance will collect from their insurers, and a person familiar with the bankruptcy planning said that hedge funds are already offering to buy settlement claims from insurance companies.

One casualty of a bankruptcy could be billions of dollars of funding for clean-energy initiatives designed to fight the effects of climate change, Ralph Cavanagh, a California-based energy expert at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), said in an email. “PG&E is the state’s largest investor in energy efficiency and electric vehicle infrastructure alone, with annual commitments well in excess of $1 billion,” he said. “Other threatened initiatives involve grid upgrades, small-scale ‘distributed’ resources and technology innovation.”

Solar and wind-energy providers are among those who could suffer. In its drive to make the state electricity grid free from carbon dioxide emissions, California has pushed utilities to buy renewable energy. Gabe Grosberg, a utilities analyst at S&P Global, said Monday that “many of the power contracts are above market price” and that a renegotiation of those contracts “is something the bankruptcy judge will take a look at.”

The company said financial alternatives to bankruptcy would not serve the best interests of PG&E and its shareholders and “would not address the fundamental issues and challenges PG&E faces.” Among the many considerations that pushed the company closer to bankruptcy were the need to resolve its potential liabilities, extensive rebuilding efforts and “the significant increase in wildfire risk resulting from climate change,” PG&E said.

PG&E’s shares plummeted Monday, and closed at $8.38 a share, down 52 percent.

[As wildfires rage, California frets over a future of greater perils and higher costs]

The filing comes a day after the company announced the resignation of its chief executive, Geisha Williams. Williams, three other top executives who resigned last week and the company have come under harsh criticism in recent weeks over the utility’s corporate culture. The president of the California Public Utilities Commission had in November widened his investigation of PG&E to include its “safety culture” more generally.

“In our opinion, [PG&E] has significant organizational and leadership problems that have eroded the utility’s trust capital in Sacramento,” the investment advisory firm Height Securities said in a note at the time.

The company was already on federal probation as a result of a 2010 natural-gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno, Calif., that exposed violations of the Natural Gas Act and led to obstruction-of-justice charges. The five-year probation period runs through this year.

PG&E said it was required to give employees at least 15 days’ notice before it filed for bankruptcy, which it plans to do “on or about” Jan. 29.

PG&E said that, as of last week, it had about $1.5 billion in “cash or cash equivalents on hand” and was in discussions with “a number of major banks” to secure more than $5 billion to fund its ongoing operations as it seeks bankruptcy protection.

As a regulated utility, PG&E has appealed to the California Public Utilities Commission for higher gas and electric rates to recover costs. And the company has appealed to the California state legislature for protection, asking it to cap liabilities stemming from the fires.

Few politicians want to rush to the defense of a big utility, but many policy experts argue that PG&E wouldn’t be in this position if it weren’t for a unique California legal standard that makes utilities strictly liable for damages from wildfires linked to their equipment, even if the utilities were not negligent or unreasonable.

“The report of PG&E’s likely bankruptcy is deeply concerning news for the state, fire victims, and ratepayers,” California State Assembly member Chris Holden (D) said in a statement. “We don’t want to see the victims victimized again.” Holden, who has been an ally of PG&E, said he would work with the legislature and the state’s new governor, Gavin Newsom (D), on how to protect fire victims and ratepayers.

Newsom issued a statement saying that he would seek “a solution that ensures consumers have access to safe, affordable and reliable service, fire victims are treated fairly, and California can continue to make progress toward our climate goals.” He said the utility should “honor promises made to energy suppliers and to our community.”

Energy suppliers and the community, however, will join others with unsecured claims. Much of the power over how much they receive depends on how much higher the California Public Utilities Commission is willing to raise rates, PG&E’s revenue source.

PG&E, formed more than a century ago, has been blamed for dozens of major California fires that have started when trees have fallen on power lines, sending sparks onto dry grass or other trees. In response in May to a report by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) regarding October 2017 blazes, PG&E said it prunes or removes about 1.4 million trees a year in an effort to prevent such fires.

The company, which serves about 5.4 million electricity customers and 4.5 million natural-gas customers, also blamed changing weather for exacerbating the task of preventing fires. “Years of drought, extreme heat and 129 million dead trees have created a ‘new normal’ for our state,” the company said.

Moody’s investor rating service warned Nov. 15 that the potential liability of 21 major wildfires in 2017 was roughly $10 billion and that the destructive 2018 Camp Fire, which devastated the town of Paradise, Calif., and killed 86 people, would add further costs. PG&E said the cause of that fire was still under investigation, but Cal Fire is focusing on several of the utility’s transmission lines and towers.

The 2018 fires have compounded concerns about the viability of the company. Its stock has plunged about 80 percent since early November, wiping out about $19 billion of market value.

S&P Global’s Grosberg said that PG&E’s ratings were slashed as “public anger” spread after the Camp Fire, with protesters demonstrating outside a regulatory hearing in late November and in front of PG&E’s headquarters in early December.

“All Californians sympathize deeply with the victims of our recent catastrophes, which caused dozens of deaths and wreaked unprecedented destruction across the state,” the NRDC’s Cavanagh said. “But victims’ interests won’t be served by pushing utilities into bankruptcy, converting wildfire sufferers into one more class of frustrated creditors pursuing inadequate funds.”

Scott Wilson contributed to this report.

Source: Washington Post Daily Newspaper – Posted January 14, 2019; retrieved January 30, 2019 from: https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2019/01/14/pge-file-bankruptcy-following-devastating-california-wildfires/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.b0662c33d98e


VIDEO – California deadly Camp & Woolsey fires, compared by the numbers  – https://www.washingtonpost.com/video/national/californias-deadly-camp-and-woolsey-fires-compared-by-the-numbers/2018/11/20/7d71bb96-ecd3-11e8-8b47-bd0975fd6199_video.html

Published January 14, 2019 – The wildfires reduced Paradise to ashes and razed much of Malibu’s landscape. (Luis Velarde /The Washington Post)

This foregoing article was composed before hand, with the anticipation that PG&E would file bankruptcy, despite being profitable – see Appendix below. They did file; see here:

January 29, 2019 – Pacific Gas and Electric’s bankruptcy filing on Tuesday, to deal with billions of dollars in wildfire liability, set off a scramble by the company, investors and elected leaders in California to protect themselves and influence what happens next.

The corporate reorganization is shaping up to be one of the most complicated and difficult in recent years. In addition to traditional legal tussles between the company and its creditors and suppliers, the bankruptcy court will contend with demands by California officials and victims to force PG&E to pay damage claims estimated at tens of billions of dollars for wildfires started by its equipment. 
See the full article here; (retrieved January 30, 2019): https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/29/business/energy-environment/pge-file-bankruptcy.html

This is about the Social Contract – where citizens surrender some of their freedoms and submit to the authority of the State in exchange for protection of remaining natural and legal rights. The important lesson is that to have security and justice, there must be an economic requirement as well. The book Go Lean…Caribbean presents a roadmap to reform and transform the Caribbean societal engines of economics, security and governance. It introduces a new federal government branded the Caribbean Union Trade Federation (CU); this plan asserts that bankruptcy functionality must be elevated to federal jurisdiction rather than remain at the member-state level for processing. The need for justice is the rationale why; (as related here from the Go Lean book):

Ways to Impact Turn-Arounds – Bankruptcy Processing (Page 33)
Upon acceding this treaty, all bankruptcy processing in the region will be assimilated under the CU Federal Courts – applying to individuals, companies and even municipalities – thereby bringing protection to plaintiffs, but also balance and fairness to creditors.

Separation of Powers – Federal Courts (Page 90)
Upon the accedence of this CU Trade Federation, all the bankruptcy processing in the region will be assembled and rolled under the federal courts. These cases apply for individuals, companies and even municipalities. This federalized process will bring protection to plaintiffs, but also will bring balance and fairness to the creditors and avoid abuse by debtors.

Ways to Better Manage Debt – CU Federal Bankruptcies (Page 114)
When debt become too excessive and can no longer be managed by the debtor, the usual solution is bankruptcy. Most advanced economies even allow for governmental entities to avail this privilege. The CU treaty will grant this oversight (and receivership) to CU federal courts, with a mandate to lean towards reorganization, rather than outright dismissal of legitimate debt, though all creditors may have to take a “hair-cut” (minor loss). The courts will appoint direct receivership to Trustees to facilitate the processing of the bankruptcy obligations for municipalities, companies and individuals.

This bankruptcy theme aligns with previous Go Lean commentaries; see a sample list here:

http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=15965 Retail Apocalypse and Sears Bankruptcy; Another One Bites the Dust
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=15787 Lessons Learned from 2008: Too Big to Fail –vs- Too Small to Thrive
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=11647 Righting a Wrong: Puerto Rico’s Bankruptcy
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=3311 Detroit to exit historic bankruptcy

If bankruptcies are not regulated with the economic engines, then justice becomes elusive. This is because, as the Go Lean book posits, “bad actors” will always emerge in times of economic optimizations to exploit opportunities, with bad or evil intent. The institutions must be in place to marshal against injustice in society. Once there is a reckoning, it must not be easily undermined with abusive bankruptcy practices.

Everyone in the Caribbean, the people and institutions, are hereby urged to lean-in to this Go Lean roadmap for elevation of Caribbean society. The roadmap calls for the heavy-lifting so that justice institutions, including the courts, can execute their responsibilities in a just manner, thus impacting the Greater Good.

We must do the heavy-lifting to ensure justice reigns – no justice; no peace. This is how we can make our homeland a better place to live, work and play. 🙂

About the Book
The book Go Lean…Caribbean serves as a roadmap for the introduction and implementation of the technocratic Caribbean Union Trade Federation (CU), for the elevation of Caribbean society – for all member-states. This CU/Go Lean roadmap has these 3 prime directives:

  • Optimization of the economic engines in order to grow the regional economy to $800 Billion and create 2.2 million new jobs.
  • Establishment of a security apparatus to ensure public safety and protect the resultant economic engines.
  • Improve Caribbean governance to support these engines, including a separation-of-powers between the member-states and CU federal agencies.

The Go Lean book provides 370-pages of turn-by-turn instructions on “how” to adopt new community ethos, plus the strategies, tactics, implementations and advocacies to execute so as to reboot, reform and transform the societal engines of Caribbean society.

Download the free e-Book of Go Lean … Caribbean – now!

Who We Are
The movement behind the Go Lean book – a non-partisan, apolitical, religiously-neutral Community Development Foundation chartered for the purpose of empowering and re-booting economic engines – stresses that reforming and transforming the Caribbean societal engines must be a regional pursuit. This was an early motivation for the roadmap, as pronounced in the opening Declaration of Interdependence (Pages 12 – 13):

xi. Whereas all men are entitled to the benefits of good governance in a free society, “new guards” must be enacted to dissuade the emergence of incompetence, corruption, nepotism and cronyism at the peril of the people’s best interest. The Federation must guarantee the executions of a social contract between government and the governed.

xvi. Whereas security of our homeland is inextricably linked to prosperity of the homeland, the economic and security interest of the region needs to be aligned under the same governance. Since economic crimes … can imperil the functioning of the wheels of commerce for all the citizenry, the accedence of this Federation must equip the security apparatus with the tools and techniques for predictive and proactive interdictions.

xxiv. Whereas a free market economy can be induced and spurred for continuous progress, the Federation must install the controls to better manage aspects of the economy: jobs, inflation, savings rate, investments and other economic principles. Thereby attracting direct foreign investment because of the stability and vibrancy of our economy.

Sign the petition to lean-in for this roadmap for the Caribbean Union Trade Federation.


Appendix – PG&E Fortune 500 Metrics

REVENUES ($M): $17,135
PROFITS ($M): $1,646.0
ASSETS ($M): $68,012
MARKET VALUE AS OF 3/29/18 ($M): $22,664

Source: Retrieved January 30, 2019 from: http://fortune.com/fortune500/pge-corp/

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