Shareholder sues leaders of Hawaiian utility after Lahaina fire

By Niina H. Farah | 04/15/2024 07:06 AM EDT

George Assad filed a complaint over decisionmaking by Hawaiian Electric officials.

The aftermath of wildfires in Maui, Hawaii.

An aerial image taken Aug. 10, 2023, shows destroyed homes and buildings burned to the ground in Lahaina in the aftermath of wildfires in western Maui, Hawaii. Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

A Hawaiian Electric shareholder is suing the utility’s top brass over alleged mismanagement that he claimed contributed to the spread of a deadly fire on the island of Maui last summer, significantly damaged the utility’s reputation.

The Aug. 8, 2023, wildfire, spurred by strong winds, killed dozens of people and devastated the historic town of Lahaina, as well as parts of Olinda and Kula. Thousands of people were displaced.

Current and former officers and directors at Hawaiian Electric and its parent company Hawaiian Electric Industries (HEI) were aware of risks to the company, its customers and the environment from severe weather, but they “failed to implement policies and practices meant to meaningfully mitigate these material risks,” according to attorneys for shareholder George Assad.


The complaint cites media coverage and wildfire experts finding Hawaiian Electric was culpable for both causing the wildfires and making the fires worse. The utility also said in a public statement last August that the fire appeared to have been caused by power lines.