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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: 263023

Reported Deaths: 5752
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17675191
Hinds16813331
Harrison14224204
Rankin11167219
Jackson10839190
Lee9050144
Madison8568168
Jones6668114
Forrest6177124
Lauderdale6097192
Lowndes5518120
Lafayette516298
Lamar503965
Washington4923125
Bolivar4104109
Oktibbeha405982
Panola384881
Pontotoc376258
Warren3674103
Monroe3671108
Union355663
Marshall355270
Neshoba3485154
Pearl River3468105
Leflore3111109
Lincoln305688
Hancock291862
Sunflower291475
Tate279662
Alcorn272354
Pike268981
Itawamba268063
Scott259648
Yazoo255256
Prentiss252553
Tippah249250
Copiah249049
Coahoma248054
Simpson242171
Leake237367
Grenada223272
Marion222073
Covington219973
Adams213671
Wayne212634
Winston207371
George204339
Newton199046
Attala196963
Tishomingo194161
Chickasaw189044
Jasper179538
Holmes171768
Clay165837
Tallahatchie156235
Stone151425
Clarke147262
Calhoun140822
Smith129226
Yalobusha122034
Walthall114337
Greene113529
Noxubee112926
Montgomery111636
Carroll106622
Lawrence106517
Perry104531
Amite101426
Webster96124
Tunica88821
Claiborne88325
Jefferson Davis88329
Benton85623
Humphreys84624
Kemper80520
Quitman7089
Franklin69917
Choctaw63213
Wilkinson59825
Jefferson56821
Sharkey45117
Issaquena1606
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 439442

Reported Deaths: 6657
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson644371007
Mobile31435569
Madison28158217
Tuscaloosa21492275
Montgomery19873332
Shelby19248132
Baldwin17128189
Lee13137107
Morgan12594142
Etowah12070181
Calhoun11496206
Marshall10420123
Houston8988164
Limestone832081
Cullman8257124
Elmore8183110
DeKalb7871107
Lauderdale7847107
St. Clair7808130
Talladega6445112
Walker6028183
Jackson599145
Colbert548694
Blount546286
Autauga535862
Coffee460764
Dale409685
Franklin374150
Russell354215
Chilton344373
Covington338580
Escambia334544
Tallapoosa3143109
Dallas312996
Chambers303470
Clarke298036
Pike262431
Lawrence253355
Marion253161
Winston233342
Bibb222348
Geneva210247
Marengo208231
Pickens199531
Hale184944
Barbour180538
Fayette177829
Butler173160
Cherokee165131
Henry159525
Monroe152021
Randolph145536
Washington141727
Clay129746
Crenshaw123745
Macon121937
Cleburne121525
Lamar119922
Lowndes114836
Wilcox107922
Bullock103328
Perry99918
Conecuh97822
Sumter90527
Greene77923
Coosa63418
Choctaw51924
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