As pre-season football is now in full swing, it is not surprising PG&E has called a desperation “Hail Mary” play. They are asking legislators to bail out their shareholders. PG&E’s Shareholder Bailout Plan has the company taking on tens of billions in new debt to get themselves out of bankruptcy. The desperate play is the very definition of robbing Peter to pay Paul, except in this case shareholders are robbing California taxpayers to pay themselves. And let’s be clear – these are not mom-and-pop shareholders. The majority of PG&E shares are held by hedge funds who bought into the stock recently and will likely be long gone before the cost of its new debt starts coming due.
The risky new debt comes in the form of ratepayer-backed obligations. This means that ratepayers will be on the hook to pay back these bonds in the future and the state sanctioned bonds are tax-free, providing a huge tax-break for Wall Street investors who took billions in profits in recent years while allowing the utility’s infrastructure to fail and California to burn.
The PG&E Shareholder Bailout Plan risks the future for short-term Wall Street gains. These hedge fund fat cats are rolling the dice, but if their high-risk gambit fails it will be California ratepayers who AGAIN get stuck with the bill.