US lawsuit won't harm NBN: Morrow

US lawsuit won't harm NBN: Morrow

Summary: NBN Co CEO Bill Morrow has defended his work history at utilities company PG&E as he and other former company executives face a shareholder lawsuit over pipeline explosions that resulted in the deaths of nine people.

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Former Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has devoted an hour of questions in Budget Estimates this evening to probing NBN Co CEO Bill Morrow over a lawsuit targeting his former employer Pacific Gas & Electricity (PG&E)

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(Image: Screenshot by Josh Taylor/ZDNet)

Last week it was revealed that Morrow was named along with 21 other former PG&E executives in a lawsuit from shareholders against the company and its management over safety handling for its pipelines in the US. The company is accused of putting profits ahead of safety, after there were two explosions in California and San Bruno after Morrow had left the company that had resulted in the deaths of nine people.

In an opening statement to the committee, Morrow said that he was confident that he would be cleared in the lawsuit, which he said named "virtually" senior executive involved in the company. 

"I believe when the legal process has run its course, it will find the directors, officers, and I acted with care, in good faith, and in the best interests of PG&E at all times."

Morrow said he was up front with NBN Co and the government when he was approached for the top job at the company following the 2013 Federal election.

"I regard safety as paramount, I always have, and I continue to at NBN Co," Morrow said.

Conroy pushed ahead with questions relating to Morrow's time at the company, with Morrow continually suggesting he did not wish to potentially impact on the lawsuit. At one point, Independent Senator Nick Xenophon suggested that Morrow's testimony might be protected by Parliamentary privilege, however it was ultimately decided this did not apply to US court cases.

Conroy continued with his questioning, ultimately resulting in Morrow only replying "no comment."

The scene was reminiscent of a 2011 Budget Estimates hearing where former NBN Co CEO Mike Quigley faced a similar grilling from Coalition senators over his time at Alcatel Lucent where it was alleged bribes had been paid in certain countries.

Morrow told the committee that he did not believe the lawsuit would impact on the NBN rollout.

Topics: NBN, Government, Government AU, Australia

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Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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2 comments
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  • Correction

    Mr. Murrow's former employer is "Pacific Gas and Electric".

    So does NBN have a habit of hiring Americans for senior executive jobs, or are Mike Quigley and Bill Murrow Aussies who took jobs in the States?
    John L. Ries
  • One difference

    There is a big difference between the two though, Mike Q was accused of bribes in which no one was hurt (and he was ultimately cleared of).

    Mr Morrow is named in the suit because the company supposedly diverted $100M from Gas Safety and Operations to executive bonuses and shareholder profits (http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/PG-E-diverted-safety-money-for-profit-bonuses-2500175.php). Two state based authorities say the two explosions that killed nine people could have been avoided with proper testing.

    Mr Morrow was COO for 2006 and CEO from 2007 to `08, but until the case is resolved, people should consider Mr Morrow innocent. Hopefully it clears his name and he can get on with actually building the NBN...

    More info on the suit: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/in-depth/nbn-chief-bill-morrow-denies-role-in-us-disaster/story-e6frgaif-1226936370627
    Tinman_au