Bad Earnings and Subsidy Controversy Hound Musk, Tesla

Elon Musk ModelSLast time NLPC checked on Tesla Motors – as 2014 closed – we noted a growing skepticism largely due to CEO Elon Musk’s consistent habit of overpromising production and results, without delivering.

Then ten days ago he reported year-end earnings, and matters have worsened, although you wouldn’t know it from most of the undeterred “rah-rah” media and Wall Street fanboys. But there are exceptions.

First, the brutal basics – Tesla suffered a fourth-quarter loss of $107.6 million, which was nearly seven times the loss ($16.3 million) during the same period last year. The company lost $294 million for the whole year, compared to a $74 million loss in 2013, and has not recorded a profit in its history (except in a couple of quarters where it employed accounting gimmickry and depended heavily on subsidies). According to Associated Press, analysts expected a profit of 30 cents per share, but Tesla … Read More ➡

ComEd Steers Contributions to Illinois Politicians’ Charities

Today’s Chicago Tribune spotlights Commonwealth Edison’s “charitable” contributions to activist groups that might be expected to oppose electricity rate increases. From the article by Julie Wernau:

Ken Boehm, chairman of the National Legal and Policy Center just outside Washington, D.C., called the practice of making such donations a "double cheat" on ratepayers.

"Why should ratepayers have to pay increased rates so the utility can go out and give money to groups that might otherwise criticize their increase request?" Boehm said.

The article also detailed contributions to foundations and groups associated with Illinois politicians:

Commonwealth Edison spent $27,000 in ratepayer money in 2013 for a golf outing hosted by members of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus, which was raising money for the legislative body's foundation.

ComEd used $736,000 in ratepayer money in 2011 to fund World Business Chicago, an economic development organization chaired by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The CEO

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Harry Wilson’s Teamsters Connection and the Return of Government Motors

Harry WilsonIs the fix in? General Motors is acting like it faces a major decision in responding to the self-nomination of Harry Wilson for its board of directors. Wilson was one of the key members of President Obama’s Auto Task Force, and purports to be acting at the behest of hedge funds who want GM to spend the “cash hoard” that was made possible by US taxpayers.

Ironically, Wilson was one of the people who determined how much of a “hoard” GM would accumulate, an amount he now criticizes as being excessive. During, and just prior to, GM’s bankruptcy process, taxpayers supplied about $50 billion to “invest” in the company. Canadian taxpayers chipped in about $10 billion while GM had its balance sheet cleared of about $30 billion of debt. The liabilities owed to the politically-favored UAW remained intact.

Why did the Auto Task Force that Wilson served believe that GM … Read More ➡

Watchdog Criticizes Harry Wilson GM Buyback Plan as Favor to UAW

NLPC Associate Fellow Mark Modica was a guest on Closing Bell today on CNBC. He was joined by Kevin O'Leary of Shark Tank.

Here is a transcript:

Sara Eisen:  At first it seemed like it was just another activist investors at work but our next guest says something else is in play here. We're talking about Harry Wilson, the restructuring expert who served on President Obama's auto industry task force during the financial crisis and was instrumental in bringing GM out of bankruptcy. Now Wilson is a GM activist investor and represents hedge funds holding a total of 34 million shares asking General Motors' CEO Mary Barra for a seat on the board and is pressing for a stock buyback, Simon.

Simon Hobbs: Our next guest is a former GM bondholder who says the company isn't so financially healthy, that it shouldn't burn through its reserves with buybacks … Read More ➡

Harry Wilson to the Rescue of GM— or UAW?

Harry WilsonHarry Wilson, the nemesis of General Motors bondholders who were wiped out in the government-orchestrated GM bankruptcy, is back on the scene. On the front page of today’s Wall Street Journal, Wilson is portrayed as an “activist” investor, who seeks to maximize shareholder value. While his suggestion that GM buy back $8 billion of common shares would give a temporary boost to share price, Wilson’s motivations may not be entirely pure. His real agenda could be to expand the already-favored position of UAW shareholders, and to bolster the political fortunes of unions in general.

Wilson was a retired banker elected to serve on President Obama’s Auto Task Force and was the driving force behind preventing old GM bondholders from receiving due process during the GM bankruptcy process. His involvement led to his current status as a “restructuring expert” and CEO of the MAEVA Group. It now seems that our … Read More ➡

GM Earnings Not as Rosy as Portrayed

General MotorsThe trumpets sounded this morning as General Motors reported its 2014 fourth quarter earnings. GM’s bottom line earnings exceeded expectations (although revenue missed and was down from last year) and the pre-market share price of GM immediately jumped over a dollar a share. Despite the victory laps being taken by GM and its friends in the media, it would be wise for individual investors to think twice before jumping on the GM bandwagon.

GM management often exhibits a political DNA which was implanted at the company as a result of the 2009 auto bailouts when the Obama Administration manipulated a bankruptcy process to benefit UAW allies. GM’s main goal now seems to be to give the appearance of financial strength while ignoring the fact that the auto industry is highly cyclical as well as brutally competitive. The strategy has not worked to date considering that, since GM’s IPO in late … Read More ➡

Sharpton’s Tax Problems Get More Scrutiny

I was a guest this morning on Fox & Friends to discuss Al Sharpton’s longstanding practice of not paying his taxes. Here’s the video:

 

The discussion was prompted by an article on National Review Online by Jillian Kay Melchior that reports that each and every for-profit Sharpton entity has been shut down by authorities in at least one jurisdiction for failing to pay taxes.

Melchior’s story confirms a pattern also seen with his nonprofit groups and his political campaigns: Sharpton does not pay his bills.

Sharpton has run what are akin to “bust out” schemes. Sharpton takes in money for a project or cause. He lives lavishly on the cash flow, and then creditors, including taxation authorities, are left holding the bag.

Sharpton’s for-profit, nonprofit and political enterprises have always been hopelessly intertwined and conflated, often in violation of the law, … Read More ➡

‘Risky Business’ Targets Midwest for Global Warming Alarmism

What was a prolonged hibernation for “Risky Business,” after its brief burst of ballyhoo early last summer, has finally ended. The well-paid consultants and staffers for megarich global warming activist Tom Steyer (pictured in center) are back after his failed financial foray ($74 million) to elect Democrats to the Senate.

After the June 2014 release of its first report, Risky Business: The Economic Risks of Climate Change in the United States, they decided to carve that sucker up by geography. Last week they announced to the world that we first must alert folks in flyover country with the new report, Heat in the Heartland: Climate Change and Economic Risk in the Midwest. It’s clear from their Web site that future regional reports are to come. Steyer’s Risky Business partners Michael Bloomberg and Henry Paulson also threw their names on the Midwest report “findings.”

It contains all … Read More ➡

New Sharpton Book Coming February 15

Sharpton book coverTiming is everything. And in this 300+ page book titled Sharpton, A Demagogue’s Rise, longtime Sharpton watcher and critic Carl F. Horowitz could not be more timely.

The cold-blooded murder of two New York City police officers followed weeks of Sharpton’s vilification of law enforcement. The controversial minister and activist now finds himself front and center, a position he has always sought, but in a way he did not plan.

Horowitz not only explodes the myths about Sharpton by carefully documenting his past, but indicts a political culture that made possible his spectacular rise.

Horowitz is a staff director of the National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC), a group that has exposed political corruption since 1991. Through a series of NLPC-filed Complaints to the Federal Election Commission, Sharpton has been fined hundreds of thousands of dollars.

PR for the book’s released is being handled by LEVICK. Media inquiries may … Read More ➡

GM Shareholders Shafted as UAW Cashes in on Preferred Stock Buybacks

Dennis WilliamsGeneral Motors recently announced that it bought back preferred stock from the UAW Retiree Medical Benefits Trust and the Canadian government. The deal closed in December of 2014 and supposedly will result in a reduction to GM’s fourth quarter earnings to the tune of $800 million. GM had the option to redeem the shares at face value after December 31st of 2014. The timing of the deal brings into question the motivation behind the move and also leads us to reexamine a previous preferred share buyback that occurred in late 2013.

The 2013 deal seemed to have been designed to benefit the UAW rather than the shareholders that GM has an obligation to serve. Reuters reported on the deal in September of 2013 with the following:

General Motors Co (GM.N) said on Monday it would buy back just under half of its preferred shares held by the United Auto Workers

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