A county in Maui has filed a lawsuit against the power company that is believed to be at least partially responsible for the blaze that devastated the island several weeks ago. This lawsuit alleges that the company was aware of the risks that their downed poles could cause, but that they made the choice to ignore the problem. Mike Papantonio & Farron Cousins discuss more.
*This transcript was generated by a third-party transcription software company, so please excuse any typos.
Mike Papantonio: A county in Maui has filed a lawsuit against the power company that’s believed to be at least partially responsible for the blaze that devastated the island several weeks ago. This lawsuit alleges that the company was aware of the risk. Clearly they were. And they were part of the reason that this all took place. It was the poles. You had wooden poles that were rotten. They were eaten out by termites. They were ready to fall. You had a place where years, decades ago, they should have done underground wiring. They had the ability to do it. They had the money to do it, but instead they wanted to keep profits. They had, now, as of, I guess a few days ago, Hawaiian Electric says, no, we turned off the electricity. Did you see that?
Farron Cousins: No. I hadn’t seen that.
Mike Papantonio: Oh, yeah. They said, we turned off the electricity and it caused the Hawaiian Electric stocks to rise. But that’s right flying in the face of videos where you see the pole falling. You see the sparks, you see the fire taking place. It’s gonna be an interesting fight. Again, my feeling is the best place to handle this one is gonna be in bankruptcy court because this company’s only worth $3.6 billion. It’s probably a $6 billion problem. There’s no way they can go the distance. I do tell people to get ready for that. It’s not gonna be an easy solution here, is it?
Farron Cousins: Right. No. And we’ve seen it, obviously, we saw that happen in California with PG&E. They were facing all of the lawsuits from the wildfires. So they said, okay, bankrupt. We’ve got no money. Let’s take this to court. Let’s drag out the suffering of these individuals. And PG&E, by the way, they had the money. They absolutely could have paid it out. And this one, it is a little more complicated because we’re talking about a company that’s worth about half as much as the estimated damages at this point.
Mike Papantonio: Correct.
Farron Cousins: So it’s not going to be a pretty fight, and it’s not going to be a quick fight either, unfortunately, for these people. And that’s of course why, as you and I have talked about, you’ve got the Wall Street vultures circling, telling these people, listen, it’s gonna be, you know, could be five, could be 10 years.
Mike Papantonio: You got parachute lawyers jumping in and saying, hey, you know.
Farron Cousins: That’s becoming a huge issue.
Mike Papantonio: We’re living in New York, but we can hire, you know. Local lawyers, go to local lawyers, ask your local lawyers what to do, get ’em ready for bankruptcy court because that’s where this is gonna go ultimately. And that’s maybe not so bad. Maybe people are gonna be better paid. Most of the time, anytime you see a company move to bankruptcy court, it’s bad for the consumer. It’s bad for the victim. In this particular case, there’s such limited money there that that might be the only resolution. But I think that’s where it’s going. But we saw the same thing happen in California. The days after, PG&E were saying, well, we turned off the electricity. All the same things happening. And they said, well, there were areas where we simply, yeah, we were late putting any underground cable because we couldn’t afford it. It would pass on too much cost to the consumer. All of these same arguments are now being made. But as you watch how derelict this company, Hawaiian Electric was in taking care of these people, it’s kind of an easy decision on what happened there, isn’t it?
Farron Cousins: It really is. And now that this company is under that microscope, you’ve got the entire country looking at this, it’s not gonna take long. And you brought up the fact that you’ve got the residents that have on video. They took the videos themselves, the power lines sparking and literally starting fires in those moments. So the evidence against the company is overwhelming at this point. It’s just the money issue that is gonna put up that big hurdle.
Mike Papantonio: Well don’t, my advice to folks is, don’t let that money issue interfere with your willingness to go ahead and get involved. And look down the road. Hopefully there’ll be a reckoning, at least to the extent of the value of this company.