Class Action Filed Against Taxpayer-Backed First Solar

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Securities law firms are lining up to get a piece of the action after a class action lawsuit was filed against federally subsidized First Solar, Inc., allegedly because the company failed to disclose the massive costs it was incurring due to defects in its solar panels, leading investors to believe the company’s stock was worth more than its actual value.

The complaint, filed by the New York-based Pomerantz, Haudek, Grossman, & Gross law firm, claims that First Solar executives – including founder Michael Ahearn and former CEO Robert Gillette – “made false and/or misleading statements, as well as failed to disclose material adverse facts about the Company’s business, operations, and prospects.” The false information was allegedly delivered via annual and quarterly reports, SEC filings, press releases and other documents. First Solar is a public company traded on the NASDAQ exchange.

According to the complaint, First Solar: “deceive(d) the investing … Read More ➡

10 Reasons Why Fisker May Be Worse Than Solyndra

Chu photo

This story has been updated below.

Automotive and green technology advocacy Web sites are abuzz with a story about a former employee of Fisker Automotive who claims the company released its $102,000-plus Karma electric sport sedan prematurely, in order to meet targets set forth by the Department of Energy so Fisker could access funds from a $529 million loan award.

This followed reports from all over the Internet that Consumer Reports purchased a Karma in Connecticut for $107,850, only to see it totally disabled before the magazine could run it through its tests.

The whistleblower story originated on the pro-Clean tech Web site Gigaom.com, and was written by electric vehicle cheerleader Katie Fehrenbacher. According to her report, “The former Fisker employee said that it wasn’t uncommon for the first Karma cars to have technical issues, and said that was one reason for leaving Fisker — the employee now works … Read More ➡

Fisker’s Private Fundraisers Face SEC Investigation

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The Securities and Exchange Commission has notified the brokers who raised most of the private financing for taxpayer-backed electric automaker Fisker Automotive that charges may be brought against them, in connection with a private offering in 2009.

The co-founders of Advanced Equities, Inc., Keith Daubenspeck and Dwight Badger, were served in January with Wells Notices by enforcement staff from the SEC’s Chicago office. The warning informs defendants of the preliminary results of an investigation, and that findings mean a recommendation for a full hearing before the commission is likely. The subjects of the investigation are given the opportunity to submit a response to the allegations before a hearing is commenced. Crain’s Chicago Business first reported the news.

Advanced Equities, also based in the Windy City, has raised venture capital for Fisker. The investment bank specializes in late-stage equity financing, raising funds to “bridge the gap between venture money and … Read More ➡

Lawyers Who Backed Obama Advised on Failed Loan Programs

Obama InvescoLast week NLPC reported that an international law firm, whose employees provided significant campaign support for President Obama, was paid $1.8 million from the stimulus to review and conduct “due diligence” for the Department of Energy’s suspended loan to Fisker Automotive, an electric vehicle start-up company. Fisker sent 65 workers to the unemployment lines.

Debevoise and Plimpton, which employs top Obama bundler and fundraiser David Rivkin, wasn’t the only largely Democratic law firm to reap such rewards. At least four other major law practices also analyzed DOE’s loan programs and its grantees – three of which gave large sums of money to the campaigns of President Obama and fellow Democrats.

Debevoise, on the heels of  $199,944 in donations to Sen. Barack Obama for his 2008 presidential campaign, was able to land the contract to analyze loans from DOE’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program to troubled Fisker Read More ➡

Can Taxpayer-Subsidized Battery Maker A123 Survive?

A123 logoThe taxpayer-funded ($279 million) battery supplier that gave big raises and parachutes to its executives shortly after it cut “Green jobs” at its Michigan factories, reported last week it would suffer big losses again for 2011.

A123 Systems, whose fortunes were entwined with those of electric vehicle startup manufacturer Fisker Automotive, also announced it would look to China and India in order to survive.

A123 also received grants and tax credits from Michigan that could total more than $135 million.

The company said it would realize a loss of $257.7 million for last year, compared to the $152.6 million in losses for 2010. A123, which received a $249.1 million grant from the Department of Energy to refurbish plants in Livonia and Romulus, Mich. (plus another $30 million sub-grant for another energy storage project), has never been profitable. 

A123 is an investor in Fisker, which had its own $529 Read More ➡

GM-Funded EV Company Gives Up on DOE Loan, Ends Operations

bright automotive

In administrating its stimulus-fed loan and grants programs, the Department of Energy has been accused of incompetence, carelessness, recklessness, and cronyism. Now it can add inconsistency to those distinguishing characteristics.

Last week Bright Automotive, an electric vehicle start-up company that General Motors helped two years ago with an investment of at least $5 million from its venture capital arm, gave up hope on winning a $450 million loan from DOE’s Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing program. As the company announced the withdrawal of its loan application and that it would end operations, CEO Reuben Munger and COO Mike Donoughe sent (and released to the media) a letter to DOE Secretary Steven Chu that sharply criticized the loan programs processes and outlined their frustrations. 

“Bright has not been explicitly rejected by the DOE,” the Bright executives wrote, “rather, we have been forced to say ‘uncle….’”

“Last week we received the fourth ‘near … Read More ➡

Surprise! Another DOE Solar ‘Bet’ Produces Green Job Losses

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Yet another solar company that received loan guarantees from the Department of Energy has dismissed factory workers, lopping off 70 percent of its U.S. employees. Loveland, Colo.-based Abound Solar announced Tuesday it would lay off 280 workers at its production plant near Longmont, leaving 120 still employed. The start-up (2009) company attributed the cutbacks to the need for upgrades at the plant to manufacture more efficient solar panels, with plans to restore production levels and rehire most employees within six to nine months.

“Hopefully at the end of that time period we will bring people back,” said Steve Abely, Abound’s Chief Financial Officer, to the Boulder Daily Camera

DOE’s $400-million loan guarantee to Abound closed in December 2010, after President Obama delivered a weekly message a few months earlier hyping his jobs plan in a “clean energy economy,” in which he cited his plans for Abound:

Energy Secretary Steven ChuRead More ➡

Obama-Supporting Law Firm Advised on Failed Fisker Loan

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An international law firm, which gave substantial political donations to President Obama and fellow Democrats over the last three campaign cycles, received its own significant stimulus award to advise on a controversial Department of Energy loan transaction with a struggling electric vehicle manufacturer.

The firm, Debevoise & Plimpton LLC, received $1,842,180 in Recovery Act funds to provide legal advice, conduct due diligence, and review documents for two loans from DOE’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program. One $529 million loan award was to Fisker Automotive to develop and produce two lines of electric vehicles, with plans to create 2,000 new jobs at a renovated General Motors plant in Delaware. After receiving $193 million under that loan, DOE halted payments to Fisker in May 2011 after it failed to reach milestones set out in the agreement. Work on renovations to the Delaware plant was suspended, and the company … Read More ➡

After Layoffs, Execs Get Big Raises at Taxpayer-Funded A123

A123 logoA taxpayer-funded electric vehicle battery company, that is considered in great danger due to its dependency on troubled EV company Fisker Automotive, has awarded its top executives big salary increases despite a steep downward trajectory in its stock price.

Massachusetts-based A123 Systems — which received $279.1 million in stimulus money from the Department of Energy, and up to $135 million in incentives from the State of Michigan — boosted the base salaries of two vice presidents and its chief financial officer on February 8.

Chief Financial Officer David Prystash was bumped 27 percent to $380,000; VP of Energy Solutions Robert Johnson’s base salary increased 51 percent from his 2010 level to $400,000; and VP of Automotive Systems Jason Forcier saw his pay rise 32 percent from 2010, to $350,000. The news was first reported by the Boston Web site of Citybizlist.com, which obtained the information from an A123 SEC filingRead More ➡

Integrity of Fisker Capital Funding is Questioned

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How did a start-up electric car company that raised more than $1 billion suddenly fail to meet government-lending standards, to the point where it can no longer draw on an awarded Department of Energy loan and has therefore halted renovation work on a Delaware plant?

 

That’s one curiosity about Fisker Automotive, a high-end manufacturer that apparently has burned through so much cash that it does not want to move forward with plans to produce an electric family sedan without the assurance that another $336 million will come forth from taxpayers. Despite having a reported $850 million in private investment and $193 million from that $529 million loan, Fisker laid off 65-or-so employees last week as DOE froze payments.

DOE’s action was attributed to Fisker’s failure to attain certain unidentified “milestones.” Fisker had projected the delivery of 15,000 Karmas in 2012, at a showroom cost of $102,000 for the … Read More ➡