PG&E’s top boss captured a total pay package in 2021 that topped $50 million at a time when the embattled utility remained under scrutiny for a decade of disasters linked to catastrophic wildfires and explosions.
Patricia Poppe, chief executive officer with PG&E, harvested $51.2 million in total direct compensation last year, according to documents filed on Thursday with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
By comparison, the average salary for chief executive officers of the companies that make up the S&P 500 Index was $15.5 million in 2020, the most recent year for which data is available, according to a survey by Executive Paywatch, a union-crafted website.
Over the last 10 years, starting in September 2010, PG&E’s equipment has caused a fatal gas explosion in San Bruno and also has been linked to a string of lethal wildfires in Northern California.
Among the fatal incidents in the last decade:
— In 2010, a PG&E gas pipeline ruptured and unleashed a fireball that killed eight people and destroyed a San Bruno neighborhood.
— 2015 Butte Fire in Amador County and Calaveras County killed two. The cause was contact between a tree and a PG&E power line.
— 2017 Wine Country fires. PG&E equipment was linked to multiple fatal fires in a series of infernos.
— 2018 Camp Fire in Butte County. PG&E equipment was determined to be the cause of the deadly wildfire that killed 85 people and destroyed the town of Paradise.
— 2021 Dixie Fire in Butte, Plumas, Lassen, Shasta and Tehama counties. PG&E equipment was found to be the cause of the enormous blaze that became California’s second-largest wildfire.
Poppe’s $51.2 million total pay package was enriched primarily by $41.2 million in awards of stock, the annual SEC filing shows. The PG&E CEO also was awarded a bonus of $6.6 million and a base salary of $1.3 million.
Marlene Santos, PG&E’s chief customer officer, harvested $7.5 million in total pay, a compensation package that included $5.1 million in stock awards, according to the regulatory filing.
Adam Wright, chief operating officer with Pacific Gas and Electric Co., the utility unit of PG&E, was awarded $6.5 million in total pay, which included $4.2 million in stock awards, the SEC documents show.
Sumeet Singh, chief risk officer with Pacific Gas and Electric, received $1.6 million in total executive compensation.
“In 2021, we launched our leadership of PG&E with a shared vision and a common goal: to produce the right outcomes for our customers, communities, and stakeholders; and to ensure that our gas and electric system operates safely for everyone,” Poppe and PG&E board chair Robert Flexon said in an opening statement for the annual proxy filing that they jointly signed.
William Smith, PG&E’s former interim CEO, landed $361,600 in total executive compensation. Smith, however, also captured $1.5 million in gains in 2021 from the sale of previously awarded stock options.
Poppe didn’t exercise any stock sales in 2021, the SEC filing shows.
PG&E’s opening statement for the annual proxy filing claimed that the company has installed a leadership group that will help it dramatically reduce the wildfire and explosion disasters that began to haunt the company a decade ago with the San Bruno blast.
“We are taking bold actions to reduce risk and make our system safer every day,” Poppe and Flexon wrote in the statement. “We stand ready to join with policymakers and state leaders to engineer and build our electric and gas system for a cleaner, safer and more reliable energy future.”