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Hawaiian Electric Industries, Inc.

Case Details

Class Period: February 28, 2019 - August 16, 2023
Date Filed: August 24, 2023
Case Number: 3:23cv04332
Jurisdiction: Northern District of California
icon-casetype Case Type: Securities Case
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Case Summary

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 and operates in three segments, including the Electric Utility segment, which engages in the production, purchase, transmission, distribution, and sale of electricity in the islands of Oahu, Hawaii, Maui, Lanai, and Molokai.

Complaint alleges that, throughout the Class Period, Defendants made materially false and misleading statements regarding the Company’s business, operations, and compliance policies. Specifically, Defendants made false and/or misleading statements and/or 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; (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; and (iii) as a result, the Company’s public statements were materially false and misleading at all relevant times.

In early August 2023, a series of severe wildfires broke out in Hawaii, predominantly on the island of Maui. The most destructive fire began in West Maui 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. Moreover, videos captured by local residents showed that downed power lines belonging to Hawaiian Electric appeared to have ignited at least several of the fires. Ultimately, the wind-driven fires prompted evacuations, caused widespread damage, and have killed at least 114 people, with some 850 others still missing in Lahaina.

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.

Then, on August 16, 2023, the Wall Street Journal (“WSJ“) reported that Hawaiian Electric is meeting with firms that specialize in restructuring advisory work, exploring options for the various financial and legal challenges that the Company faces as a consequence from the Maui wildfires.

Finally, on August 17, 2023, the WSJ reported that Hawaiian Electric had for years been aware of the threat posed by wildfire but waited years 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.

Following the publication of the WSJ articles, Hawaiian Electric’s stock price fell $2.54 per share, or 17.43%, to close at $12.03 per share on August 17, 2023.

Documents
Complaint