Hawaiian Electric Industries, Inc. (HE) Failed to Maintain a Public Power Shutoff Plan Resulting in Catastrophic Loss in Maui
A shareholder filed a class action on behalf of persons and entities that purchased or otherwise acquired Hawaiian Electric Industries, Inc. (NYSE: HE) securities between February 28, 2019 and August 16, 2023. Hawaiian Electric, together with its subsidiaries, engages in the electric utility, banking, and non-regulated renewable/sustainable infrastructure investment businesses in the state of Hawaii. The Company provides service to 95% of Hawaiian residents.
According to the complaint, during the class period, defendants failed to disclose that (i) Hawaiian Electric’s wildfire prevention and safety protocols and procedures were inadequate to meet the challenges for which they were ostensibly designed, and (ii) accordingly, despite knowing the degree of risk that wildfires posed to Maui, the Company’s inadequate safety protocols and procedures placed Maui at a heightened risk of devastating wildfires.
In early August 2023, a series of severe wildfires broke out in Hawaii, predominantly on the island of Maui. The most destructive fire began near the town of Lahaina on the morning of August 8, 2023. By that afternoon, intense winds had knocked down approximately 30 utility poles throughout Maui, resulting in at least 15 separate outages impacting more than 12,400 customers. Video shows that downed power lines belonging to Hawaiian Electric appeared to have ignited at least several of the fires.
On August 12, 2023, news outlets began reporting that Hawaiian Electric lacked the proper policies and procedures to mitigate the impact of the wildfires. Specifically, it was revealed that, at the time the wildfires began, the Company did not maintain a public power shutoff plan—i.e., a plan in which electricity is intentionally cut off to areas where strong wind events could cause the fires to spread. On this news, Hawaiian Electric’s stock price fell $10.94 per share, or 33.76%, to close at $21.46 per share on August 14, 2023.
Finally, on August 17, 2023, the Wall Street Journal reported that for years Hawaiian Electric had been aware of the threat posed by wildfire but waited to act. Indeed, the WSJ stated that between 2019 and 2022 the Company spent less than $245,000 on wildfire-specific projects on Maui and did not seek state approval to raise utility rates to pay for broad wildfire safety improvements until 2022.
What Now: Similarly situated shareholders may be eligible to participate in the class action against Hawaiian Electric Industries, Inc. Shareholders who want to act as lead plaintiff for the class must file their papers with the court by October 23, 2023. A lead plaintiff is a representative party acting on behalf of other class members in directing the litigation. You do not have to participate in the case to be eligible for a recovery. If you choose to take no action, you can remain an absent class member.
All representation is on a contingency fee basis. Shareholders pay no fees or expenses.