Taxpayer stimulus waster A123 Systems has not only declared financial bankruptcy – its executives also seem to be driving toward moral bankruptcy as well.
CEO David Vieau and his lieutenants, after receiving well over $279 million in Recovery Act funds and at least $135 million from Michigan taxpayers, have run the company into the ground. Yet they have asked a bankruptcy court judge for his blessing to receive up to $4.2 million in executive and retention bonuses to see through the company’s takeover, likely by Johnson Controls.
As Bloomberg reported today, stimulus-funded electric vehicle battery maker A123 Systems filed bankruptcy in federal court after failing to make a debt payment that was due. Milwaukee Business Times has reported that Johnson Controls will purchase the “automotive business assets” of A123 for $125 million, and that A123 will receive from Johnson $72.5 million in “debtor in possession” financing to continue operating during the sale process.
Regular readers won’t be surprised, as the company’s gradual sink to its current depths – despite receiving hundreds of millions of dollars from taxpayers – has been covered by NLPC since late last year. A review:
As stimulus-funded ($249 million-plus) A123 Systems sees its stock price drop back near its all-time low and waits for a Chinese rescue, two Republican senators want answers about whether taxpayer dollars are again funding jobs and technology that will be transferred overseas.
Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, the ranking minority member on the Judiciary Committee, and South Dakota Sen. John Thune queried A123 CEO David Vieau about the logistics of a proposed sale to China-based Wanxiang Group Corp. In August, just as the company reported another $82.9 million in second-quarter losses, a deal was announced in which Wanxiang would deliver $75 million in initial loans and then would buy $200 million of senior secured convertible notes, followed by a possible $175 million “through the exercise of warrants it would receive in connection with the bridge loan and convertible notes.” If fully consummated, the end result could mean A123 ends up 80 percent Chinese.
It’s been six months since the taxpayer-subsidized ($193 million) Fisker Karma broke down at the test facilities of Consumer Reports before the publication could even take it for a review spin, but now the researchers have finally been able to put the luxury electric car through its paces and their assessment is complete.
The venture capital redistributionist game that surrounds President Obama’s green energy stimulus doesn’t necessarily require the actual delivery of taxpayer cash to crony corporations. Sometimes the malfeasance appears simply based upon the false promise of government “investment.”
When is a government watchdog not really a watchdog?
When he rolls over and lays at the feet of his master rather than sink his teeth into a program that he’s been tasked to guard.
Such appears to be the (unsurprising) case with Herbert Allison, Jr. (pictured), a former Wall Street executive (Merrill Lynch and TIAA-CREF) until he was appointed president and CEO of Fannie Mae in 2008, after it was put into conservatorship. Subsequently President Obama named (and the Senate confirmed) him as overseer of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), the $700 billion asset acquisition fund that bailed out Wall Street financial institutions. He served in that role for about 15 months, until September 2010.
The first two recalls were caused by problems with batteries produced by Fisker’s similarly troubled supplier and business partner, A123 Systems. The company said this time the fire was caused by a failure in a cooling fan, which caused overheating while the vehicle’s owner shopped for groceries inside a store. About 2,400 Karmas – 1,400 of which are in the possession of customers – will need to be recalled.
This time it’s the second fire in a Fisker Karma, which received $193 million out of a $529 million award from a Department of Energy loan guarantee before the cabinet agency cut the company off for failure to meet still-undisclosed milestones. This blaze (video), according to a report on the automotive Web site Jalopnik, occurred in a Woodside, Calif. parking lot while its owner was inside a store shopping for groceries.
On Tuesday the heavily subsidized electric vehicle battery manufacturer released its latest financial bad news, but also disclosed that it also had a potential buyer – from China. According to media reports, just as A123 reported another $82.9 million in second-quarter losses, good news also magically materialized as Wanxiang Group Corp. was announced as a new investor. A123 had reported recently to the Securities and Exchange Commission that its ability to continue as a viable company was “a going concern.”
A week and a half ago cash-poor A123 Systems, recipient of $279 million-plus in federal money and millions more from the State of Michigan, announced it would access $39 million via a stock sale to institutional investors and the release of other cash after meeting requirements related to its existing reserves.
It has been downhill ever since – all the way down to its all-time low of 75 cents per share price Tuesday (and 69 cents Thursday morning). It may be too much for even these masters of the press release cycle to overcome by creating good news out of thin air.