Hawaiian Electric Shares Rise Amidst Legal Battle Over Deadly Lahaina Fire

Hawaiian Electric Industries Inc. (HE) experienced a remarkable surge in stock prices on Monday, soaring by 52%, marking the most significant single-day percentage growth in the company’s history according to Dow Jones Market Data. This rally came in the aftermath of the utility’s firm defense against accusations made by Maui County, asserting that Hawaiian Electric’s power lines ignited the devastating Lahaina fire.

The utility countered, suggesting the county’s fire department might have been at fault for not maintaining control of the fire. While an early morning fire on August 8 was linked to power lines affected by high winds, a subsequent blaze that devastated the town of Lahaina in the afternoon occurred hours after Hawaiian Electric had deactivated its power lines in the area, the utility emphasized in a statement.

Shelee Kimura, president and CEO of Hawaiian Electric Co. (HECO), expressed dismay at the County of Maui’s haste to initiate legal proceedings prior to concluding its own investigative measures. “We believe the complaint is factually and legally irresponsible,” Kimura stated.

In a responding statement, John Fiske, the attorney representing Maui County, urged HECO to present any evidence of an alternate ignition source, placing the onus on HECO to ensure the safety and maintenance of its infrastructure. The conflict foreshadows what could become an intense legal dispute over accountability for a fire that not only razed the historic Lahaina town but resulted in a tragic loss of at least 115 lives and caused damages exceeding $5.5 billion.

Victims and their representatives have initiated several lawsuits against Hawaiian Electric, alleging negligence for not deactivating power during high-risk fire conditions. The company, however, highlighted that the Maui County Fire Department had reported the initial fire caused by their power lines as “100% contained” by 9 a.m. that day. Yet, by late afternoon, another fire was spotted near the original fire’s location, even though Hawaiian Electric had deactivated its lines in that region more than eight hours prior.

Despite facing mounting legal challenges, the company’s stock experienced a significant boost after its defense. This financial rebound follows a challenging period for Hawaiian Electric, with share prices plummeting by 77% before Monday. The dire aftermath of the wildfires also prompted the company to suspend dividends to fortify its financial reserves.

Kimura concluded, “The county’s lawsuit may leave us no choice in the legal system but to demonstrate its responsibility for the events of that day.”

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Hawaiian Electric Shares Rise Amidst Legal Battle Over Deadly Lahaina Fire

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