PG&E paying millions in bonuses despite horrible wildfire year

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- PG&E is under a microscope now that it has begun the bankruptcy process, and it is receiving new criticism over tens of millions of dollars in bonuses they plan to give employees.

Jesus Soto, Senior Vice President of PG&E, got a $75,000 bonus last week-- just days before the utility filed for bankruptcy. He was on the minds of attorneys for wildfire victims, as they left the bankruptcy hearing in San Francisco Federal Court.

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"They really quick hurried up and gave a raise to one of its senior vice president of $75,000 because how can you possibly get along with a mere $500,000 a year," wildfire victims' attorney Mike Danko told Dan Noyes. "So that's the first thing that they did in anticipation of bankruptcy. It just isn't right."

We asked the utility about the Soto bonus earlier this week. They answered, "PG&E sets executive compensation to be comparable with similar companies in the industry. 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."

In its bankruptcy filings, PG&E reported they are set to pay $130-million in incentive bonuses to 14,000 employees for 2018 performance, the same year the Camp Fire claimed 86 lives.

Wildfire Victims' Attorney Dario De Ghetaldi said, "It's hard to see how even if you're just looking at 2018, how they can get bonuses after the Camp Fire."

In Thursday's hearing, PG&E bankruptcy attorney Stephen Karotkin told the judge no officers or members of the board of directors will receive bonuses.

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Karotkin also proposed setting up a trust fund to handle all wildfire claims-- even those that have settled, but for which PG&E has not paid. The plan is short on details at this point, and met skepticism from the plaintiffs' attorneys.

Frank Pitri said, "Now let's find out what are the actions meet the rhetoric everybody said they wanted to act expeditiously everybody said they wanted to treat the victims fairly let's see if they are people of their word."

The judge approved motions Thursday to keep PG&E running while it goes through bankruptcy, including new loans of $5.5 billion.

RELATED: PG&E bankruptcy turns into double whammy for wildfire victims

One other note, bankruptcy attorneys filled not one but two courtrooms Thursday. They can charge up to $1,500 an hour. A lot of money paid out through this process. We'll be watching how the wildlfire victims fare.

Full Statment from PG&E:

"We remain focused on supporting our customers and communities impacted by wildfires and helping them recover and rebuild. The Chapter 11 process will support the orderly, fair and expeditious resolution of PG&E's potential liabilities resulting from wildfires.

The court today approved PG&E's "First Day" motions on an interim basis, which will allow PG&E to continue providing safe and reliable natural gas and electric service for our customers as we proceed with the reorganization process. The court will hold a hearing on final approval on Feb. 27.

The approved motions provide PG&E with:

Access to financing to support its operations and ongoing safety initiatives, as well as its critical investments in system safety and maintenance;

The authority to continue existing customer programs, including low income support, energy efficiency and other programs supporting adoption of clean energy, and;

The ability to continue paying employee wages and providing healthcare and other benefits."

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