Auditor says failed solar plant owes Mississippi $93 million

Mississippi's state auditor is formally demanding that a failed solar panel maker pay nearly $93 million that he says is owed to state and local governments, a prelude to a possible lawsuit.

Posted: Mar 21, 2018 2:15 PM

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi's state auditor is formally demanding that a failed solar panel maker pay nearly $93 million that he says is owed to state and local governments, a prelude to a possible lawsuit.

Auditor Stacey Pickering demanded repayment in a letter he delivered Tuesday to Stion Corp., which closed its Hattiesburg plant last year. The Republican said it's the largest amount he's ever demanded to be repaid.

Stion is the latest in a series of failed green energy companies that received loans and incentives from the state. Mississippi taxpayers have lost more than $185 million from those ventures, all entered into by former Gov. Haley Barbour's administration.

The San Jose, California, company borrowed $74.8 million from Mississippi, failed to pay $2.1 million in reduced property taxes to Hattiesburg and Forrest County, and owes $16 million in interest on the state loan and property tax payments, according to Pickering's calculations.

The demand letter means Stion has 30 days to repay or face a civil lawsuit.

"Stion is just one more example of a risky investment made by Mississippi in which the company and its management did not keep their commitments," Pickering said in a Wednesday statement.

A quick repayment appears unlikely, though. Stion closed its plant in December, blaming unfair foreign competition and laying off 137 employees. The company signed over its assets to Development Specialists Inc., which is supposed to sell them and distribute money to creditors instead of Stion filing for bankruptcy.

Stion pledged the equipment in its rented Hattiesburg factory as security against Mississippi's loan. Geoffrey Berman, a senior managing director for Development Specialists, wrote to The Associated Press in an email that his company is working on selling the equipment.

"It is however unlikely that the assets will realize the full amount of the state auditor's demand," Berman wrote.

Mississippi would then have to take its place in line with other unsecured creditors, and Berman says they're not likely to get any money back. He declined to provide an estimate of Stion's total assets and debts. Berman said no creditors have received any money yet.

Stion raised more than $200 million from private investors, in addition to Mississippi's loan. It promised 1,000 jobs and $400 million investment in Hattiesburg when it announced its plans in 2011, later cutting that amount to $250 million and 500 jobs. Pickering said he doesn't know how much Stion ultimately invested.

Pickering also criticized the Mississippi Development Authority, saying documents showed the economic development agency is at fault because at one point it was doing business with a Stion predecessor that never legally registered to do business in Mississippi.

"It was not qualified to transact business within the State of Mississippi; nevertheless, it is listed as a borrower in agreements accepted and signed by MDA," the auditor's office wrote in a seven-page report examining the state's dealings with Stion.

MDA spokesman Jeff Rent said he didn't know enough to immediately respond to the criticism.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 512632

Reported Deaths: 10262
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34853555
DeSoto33162432
Hinds32556641
Jackson24830389
Rankin22442402
Lee16238242
Madison14874283
Jones14086247
Forrest13741259
Lauderdale12249324
Lowndes11286193
Lamar10644140
Pearl River9707244
Lafayette8827143
Hancock7835132
Washington7550169
Oktibbeha7204138
Monroe6989179
Pontotoc6970109
Warren6849178
Panola6746134
Neshoba6726210
Marshall6653141
Bolivar6440151
Union633897
Pike5924156
Alcorn5862107
Lincoln5525136
George510180
Prentiss500884
Tippah490282
Itawamba4829107
Scott477499
Adams4766125
Tate4748116
Leflore4723144
Copiah455895
Yazoo455591
Simpson4543117
Wayne442772
Covington432895
Sunflower4299106
Marion4265112
Coahoma4227109
Leake413790
Newton395581
Tishomingo381793
Grenada3775109
Stone365666
Jasper340166
Attala337790
Winston317792
Chickasaw313367
Clay311878
Clarke301195
Calhoun284449
Holmes271289
Smith268952
Yalobusha243747
Tallahatchie231453
Greene224749
Walthall221366
Lawrence217840
Perry213356
Amite209557
Webster205148
Noxubee188642
Montgomery181557
Carroll174441
Jefferson Davis173643
Tunica163239
Benton152639
Kemper144941
Choctaw136527
Claiborne134238
Humphreys131139
Franklin124929
Quitman107528
Wilkinson105939
Jefferson96834
Sharkey65121
Issaquena1957
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 845108

Reported Deaths: 16115
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1161242006
Mobile741961379
Madison53291732
Shelby38328368
Baldwin38074589
Tuscaloosa36017641
Montgomery34483781
Lee25557263
Calhoun22585518
Morgan22454406
Etowah20016517
Marshall18781316
Houston17729425
St. Clair16880358
Limestone16138218
Cullman16050303
Elmore15904294
Lauderdale14984306
Talladega14191299
DeKalb12971269
Walker12029380
Blount10715192
Autauga10517157
Jackson10161194
Coffee9415192
Colbert9341208
Dale9018191
Tallapoosa7255201
Russell707865
Chilton7018170
Escambia6955143
Covington6933195
Franklin6342108
Chambers5784142
Marion5403130
Dallas5285209
Pike5118109
Clarke484986
Lawrence4826129
Winston4780110
Geneva4642136
Bibb434094
Barbour369480
Butler3434100
Marengo342393
Monroe337066
Randolph334367
Pickens333188
Fayette330085
Henry320666
Hale318389
Cherokee317763
Crenshaw260477
Washington257052
Cleburne254460
Lamar251453
Clay250869
Macon244764
Conecuh192862
Coosa185047
Lowndes178168
Wilcox177438
Bullock152645
Perry141840
Sumter139241
Greene130245
Choctaw93228
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