Tesla CEO Elon Musk Fights Perceptions as Stock Drops

Elon MuskTaxpayer-supported Tesla, recipient of a $465 million stimulus loan guarantee to produce yet another electric toy car (the Model S) for rich people, reported its 4th quarter earnings last week. The word from billionaire CEO Elon Musk (Flickr photo: Jurvetson) was, “we’ll do better next quarter – promise.”

That’s a paraphrase, but nonetheless Tesla’s announcement fell short of most Wall Street analysts’ expectations. The company lost $90 million for the quarter as it ramped up production to fill pre-orders, paying workers to put in an average of 68 hours per week in December. On Thursday the company suffered the biggest one-day drop in its stock price – tumbling nearly 10 percent – in more than a year. Shares fell to $35.16 before recovering slightly on Friday, but were at $34.38 for Tuesday morning’s opening.

Unlike its counterpart Fisker, Musk and Tesla have enjoyed comparatively better … Read More ➡

Jesse Jackson Jr. Pleads Guilty to $750K in Campaign Fund Thefts

Jesse Jackson Jr.The elder Jesse Jackson has grown wealthy these past couple decades mainly by shaking down corporations. One of his sons, former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill. (see photo), has preferred a different path to wealth: his campaign till. That path is now leading to federal prison. On Wednesday, February 20, the younger Jackson, who served nine terms in Congress before resigning last November 21, pleaded guilty in District of Columbia federal court to diverting about $750,000 in re-election funds to personal use. Jackson, who since last June has been hospitalized twice at the Mayo Clinic for bipolar disorder and other problems, told U.S. District Judge Robert L. Wilkins that in pleading guilty to wire and mail fraud, he had “no interest in wasting the taxpayers’ time or money.” His wife, Sandi, until recently a Chicago city alderwoman, hours later pled guilty to a related tax fraud charge.

In a real … Read More ➡

Taxpayer-Supported Fisker Looking to China, Like A123

Fisker logoStimulus déjà vu-lishness lurks: Another “green” tech company that received hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars is financially troubled, seeks a buyer (or their preferred term – a “partner”), and China is ready to swoop in and buy up the remains on the cheap. And the same two Republican senators who slammed the last deal that went down like this are sickened again.

The first time this happened it was electric car battery maker A123 Systems that set up a deal to get $249 million (plus other multimillion dollar grants) from U.S. taxpayers, who then got left holding the bag when executives ran the company into bankruptcy, made off with some sweet bonuses, and left the techno-carcass for China’s Wanxiang Group to buy and learn about American battery innovation from.

The potential repeat scenario that appears to be playing out features Fisker Automotive, which once was A123’s … Read More ➡

GM Recovery in Reverse as Earnings Disappoint

Akerson photoGeneral Motors released its disappointing earnings report last week to the sound of crickets. While financial TV news networks (along with most analysts and journalists) ignored the negative aspects of the release, share price has fallen over 5% in less than a week since the news hit. The earnings release and subsequent SEC 10K (annual report) expose the fact that GM’s recovery is not the success that the Obama Administration and media portray. The lack of the fanfare that typically comes with GM earnings releases is as good an indication of the meaning behind the numbers as is the decline in share price.

The most glaring red flag in the latest financial reporting by GM is the unusually high amount of one-time adjustments to earnings. I previously reported that GM would have had about a $30 billion loss for the year if it did not rely on a $35 billion Read More ➡

Boeing Woes Balloon as Battery Fix Remains a Mystery

Boeing 787 DreamlinerWould you be willing to fly on a newly developed jumbo airliner with battery technology that has been known to cause fires, whose exact cause is still unknown, but whose manufacturer has claimed to find a temporary “fix” that would allegedly contain –but not prevent – future flaming flights?

Boeing bets you would. Airbus bets you wouldn’t.

On Sunday the Seattle Times reported that Boeing might propose a plan as early as this week to get the troubled Dreamliner airborne again, after two incidents involving fires with the jet’s sizable lithium ion battery packs shut down all 50 of the units now in service. The rumored remedy doesn’t appear to be an actual repair of the volatile battery itself, but instead “includes a heavy-duty titanium or steel containment box around the battery cells” and high-pressure tubes to vent dangerous gases outside the fuselage in case of what engineers call “thermal … Read More ➡

Inspector General Confirms Fun & Games at LG Chem

LGChem logoThe employees of battery maker LG Chem still haven’t found anything to do worthy of their pay since they were caught playing games and watching videos four months ago, and now the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Energy has embarrassed the company into returning some – but not much – of the $142 million (out of a $151 million grant) in taxpayer money they took.

Gregory Friedman released his report – which was based on an inquiry spurred by the original media stories in the fall about the mostly idle workers in Holland, Mich. – last week. Turns out the reports about workers on-the-clock playing Texas Hold ‘Em and video games, doing Sudoku and crossword puzzles, and volunteering at nonprofits like Habitat for Humanity, were not exaggerations.

In the words of the inspector, “We confirmed the allegations.” The work that was supposed to be done under DOE’s stimulusRead More ➡

New York Times Came to Us For Info on Menendez, Not The Other Way Around

Lipton photoThe New York Times has an article today titled, “Inquiry of Democratic Senator Started With Partisan Push.” The story by Eric Lipton describes our success in getting media coverage for our original research about Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and his relationship with a major donor, Dr. Salomon Melgen. Lipton then states that to Menendez and his staff our work is “proof that the news media frenzy focusing on his actions to help a Florida eye doctor is at least in part a political smear.”

The only problem with this story line is that the New York Times approached us shortly before the January 29 FBI raid on Melgen’s eye practice in Florida and asked us if we had any information on Melgen. We did not seek to place it with any news organization because there was (and is) even more to the story, and we were (and are) still researching it.… Read More ➡

More on GM’s Non-GAAP Earnings and $35 Billion Tax Benefit

GM logo/ObamaYesterday’s earnings’ report by General Motors threw up some red flags that I reviewed here. In recent quarters, the media seemed to give quite a bit of coverage on GM’s earnings, but not so this time. I wanted to follow up and discuss what the financial news networks obviously will not.

The most glaring number that warrants further discussion was the $35 billion deferred tax valuation allowance. This tax credit is not allowed under GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) but that does not stop many companies from using it as they tout non-GAAP earnings. It is the huge amount of GM’s credit that makes it worthy of scrutiny. Let’s look at what other sources have to say about this confusing accounting strategy that saved GM from having to explain its GAAP earnings loss of about $30 billion.

From Investopedia:

The amount of deferred income tax is based on

Read More ➡

GM’s Mysterious Earnings Report

General Motors reported earnings today that appeared non-eventful on the surface. Upon further inspection there are some underlying concerns, including a glaring one-time event that stands out. That is an adjustment to earnings with a tax benefit (as opposed to paying taxes) of $35 billion for a “deferred tax valuation release.” This was coupled with a goodwill impairment charge of about $27 billion, which allows GM to reduce the previously unusually high goodwill assets that were recorded on its balance sheet.

GM uses non-GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) to calculate its calendar year operating income of $7.9 billion. The GAAP number does not allow the tax benefit and is a bit more troubling at a LOSS of $30.4 billion. I do not claim to be an accountant, but the huge numbers thrown around here could be a concern and should be further investigated. My understanding of the tax benefit, in … Read More ➡

Taxpayer Millions, Lithium Ion and Rich People Just Don’t Mix Well

Elon MuskUndoubtedly alternative energy and transportation innovator Elon Musk (Flickr photo: Jurvetson) – like his competitor for the taxpayer-funded, six-figure electric automobile market Henrik Fisker – is a smart guy. But will economic and technological realities humble him, or worse, make him look like a fool?

After the experience recounted last week by New York Times journalist John Broder, who test drove the Tesla Model S in frigid conditions that required frequent unplanned recharging stops throughout the Northeast, humility is out of the question for Musk. The jury is still out on inanity.

The Times published Broder’s devastating account on Friday. The plan was for the reporter to set out from the Washington, D.C. area and examine the claims that the Model S battery has a 300-mile range on a full charge, utilizing the carefully spaced new superchargers located at rest areas in Newark, Del. and Milford, Conn. – approximately 200 … Read More ➡

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