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.
The top private equity raiser for troubled electric automaker Fisker Automotive, which has been the subject of investigations by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and Securities and Exchange Commission, has reportedly removed its co-founder and CEO.
Crain’s Chicago Business, citing “a company insider,” reported Friday that Advanced Equities Inc. has reached an agreement with Dwight Badger for him to leave the investment firm. The separation follows a demand by a FINRA arbitration panel for Advanced Equities to pay $4.5 million to one of its former brokers, John Galinsky, over breach of contract claims. Galinsky brought his complaint against the firm, Badger, and his co-founding partner, Keith Daubenspeck.
Seems like every time stimulus recipient battery-maker A123 Systems suffers bad news or a stock price hit, its leaders miraculously produce great news via press release that temporarily bumps shares higher.
The latest example came yesterday, when A123 announced a “technological breakthrough” called Nanophosphate EXT that officials claim would reduce or eliminate the need for cooling systems for overheating batteries, and lower the cost of electric vehicle batteries by $600. This followed news that A123 plans to hire 400 employees (125 were laid off in November) in the coming months, thanks to new contracts it has won. Apparently Wall Street was unjustifiably non-skeptical, as heavily subsidized A123 saw its stock price shoot up from $1.04 to $1.58 yesterday. A123 was given $249.1 million in stimulus funds to help launch two battery-manufacturing plants in Michigan, and also received grants and tax credits from the state that could total more than $135 million.