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Hawaiian Electric shares plummet 40% after Maui wildfires lawsuit

(ABC NEWS) The cause of the Maui wildfires remains under investigation

Shares of Hawaiian Electric have plummeted nearly 40% since trading opened Monday over concerns that the utility company could be held liable for damage wrought by the Maui wildfires.

A class-action lawsuit filed against Hawaiian Electric on Saturday alleges that the company “inexcusably kept their power lines energized” despite forecasts of high winds that could topple power lines and potentially ignite a fast-spreading blaze. Hawaiian Electric provides power for 95% of Hawaii residents, according to the company’s website.

The wildfires that erupted on the Hawaiian island of Maui on Aug. 8 have claimed the lives of at least 99 people as of Tuesday, while many more remain unaccounted for, according to authorities.

Much of the historic community of Lahaina has been “destroyed,” officials said, and the inferno has burned thousands of residential and commercial buildings to the ground.

The estimated value of the roughly 2,700 buildings damaged in Lahaina as of Sunday totals $5.6 billion, Hawaii Gov. Josh Green said in a video statement.

On Tuesday, S&P Global Ratings announced that it had downgraded Hawaiian Electric’s credit rating and warned of potential additional downgrades in the coming months, citing the class-action litigation.

“While the full resolution of these lawsuits may take years, should the plaintiffs prevail, the company’s financial measures would materially deteriorate,” S&P Global Ratings said in the announcement.

Authorities have yet to determine the cause of the Maui wildfires, the fifth-deadliest wildfire in U.S. history and the deadliest in more than a century.

ABC NEWS, August 15, 2023

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