PG&E’s Chief Exits

By Published On: April 22, 2011

Peter Darbee--chair and chief executive officer of Pacific Gas & Electric’s parent company, PG&E Corp.--is retiring at the end of the month, according to an April 21 corporation filing with the Securities & Exchange Commission. Darbee is set to leave with an estimated $35 million in retirement and benefits. “While obviously the company under his leadership has been responsible for several poor and consequential decisions, Mr. Darbee’s commitment to PG&E and its constituents is unquestioned,” stated Mike Peevey, California Public Utilities Commission president. He said the CPUC “urges the company to return to its roots by hiring the most technically competent person; someone with a long-standing history of performance in the energy industry.” PG&E faced intense criticism the last few months following the Sept. 9, 2010, deadly natural gas pipeline blast. There’s been a public outcry over the utility’s installation of “smart” meters, the level of shareholder bonuses reaped from contested energy efficiency claims, and the utility’s ongoing pursuit of a 20-year license extension for its nuclear power plant. In June, 2010, PG&E ran a failed ballot measure, Proposition 16. At a cost of $46 million to PG&E shareholders, the ballot measure sought to block public power agency expansions. Darbee is to reap $9.6 million in pension benefits, an estimated $21.2 in vested stock, $2.8 million in deferred compensation, and another $1.1 million under a short-term incentive award, states a separate March 30 PG&E proxy statement filing. “PG&E not only needs to clean house, it needs to change priorities, and focus spending on safety, reliability and customer service, rather than executive perks and excesses,” stated Mark Toney, The Utility Reform Network executive director. Darbee is to be temporarily replaced by Lee Cox, a 15-year PG&E Corp. director. Cox’s monthly salary was set at $150,000, the filing states. Darbee joined PG&E Corp. in 1999 as its chief financial officer and senior vice president. He became chief executive officer in 2005 and the next year was appointed to chair. He was also the utility’s chair and president, beginning in 2006 and 2007 respectively. (The utility is the primary source of income for the parent company.) The utility and parent chair and CEO posts have at times been separate. The federal filing notes that “when the positions have been combined, each company also has had a strong and independent lead director.” In related news, Christopher Johns, utility president, is to reap a $1 million retention bonus effective May 6, notes the April 21 federal filing.

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