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Corporate boards are broken—this is how to fix them

Eline Schipperen for Quartz

The Camp Fire near Paradise, California, last fall was so devastating—86 dead, 14,000 homes destroyed—it seems trivial to talk about how it affected the board of directors at Pacific Gas & Electric, but the board’s story is also telling.

The fire, the energy company has conceded, was likely sparked by a damaged electric pole and power line. Facing $30 billion in potential liabilities connected with that and other fires (it had already been convicted on six felony counts for safety violations related to a deadly 2010 pipeline explosion), but with only $2 billion of insurance, PG&E in January filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

In the aftermath, California governor Gavin Newsom and others called for PG&E’s board to resign. Lawsuits began to fly. In short order, Geisha Williams stepped down as both CEO and board member, followed by five other directors. When reconstituted, the board will feature 11 independent directors—many with backgrounds in safety.

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