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.

Confirmed Cases: 97049

Reported Deaths: 2919
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds7148160
DeSoto562361
Harrison388374
Jackson352170
Madison331289
Rankin330879
Lee274870
Forrest250075
Jones249879
Washington225977
Lafayette219340
Lauderdale2064125
Bolivar184766
Oktibbeha180152
Lamar172435
Neshoba1580104
Lowndes157958
Panola150731
Sunflower147346
Leflore141381
Warren140950
Pontotoc127916
Pike124051
Monroe123669
Copiah119233
Scott117627
Coahoma116229
Marshall111117
Lincoln110453
Holmes109859
Grenada109536
Yazoo106230
Simpson104746
Tate100638
Union99824
Leake96138
Adams94237
Wayne90521
Pearl River89453
Marion86835
Prentiss86317
Itawamba83121
Covington82723
Alcorn82311
George78213
Tallahatchie77421
Newton77324
Winston74219
Tishomingo69138
Chickasaw68524
Tippah67217
Attala67025
Clarke60346
Walthall60226
Clay59618
Hancock58822
Jasper57715
Noxubee55116
Smith53615
Calhoun52212
Tunica49715
Claiborne46516
Montgomery46520
Yalobusha43614
Lawrence43313
Perry42419
Greene38717
Humphreys37815
Quitman3775
Stone37512
Jefferson Davis34211
Webster33813
Amite33210
Carroll32012
Wilkinson30518
Kemper29015
Sharkey26613
Jefferson2439
Benton2283
Franklin1933
Choctaw1866
Issaquena1053
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 136055

Reported Deaths: 2364
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson19752350
Mobile13449292
Montgomery8852184
Tuscaloosa8654118
Madison792778
Shelby601349
Lee592760
Baldwin552650
Marshall396143
Calhoun353444
Etowah352145
Morgan331428
Houston292021
Elmore267348
DeKalb243221
St. Clair233036
Walker231984
Talladega217129
Limestone211920
Cullman190720
Dallas179126
Franklin178129
Autauga177325
Russell17633
Lauderdale172333
Colbert166626
Blount161715
Escambia161124
Chilton158830
Jackson158111
Covington140327
Dale139244
Coffee13596
Pike120510
Chambers116842
Tallapoosa116485
Clarke110016
Marion96829
Butler91339
Barbour8857
Winston74512
Marengo72420
Pickens66614
Bibb65610
Lowndes65427
Randolph65413
Hale64428
Geneva6344
Lawrence62123
Cherokee61213
Bullock60614
Monroe5908
Clay5878
Washington55913
Perry5416
Crenshaw54032
Conecuh53611
Wilcox53211
Henry5075
Macon48318
Fayette4628
Sumter43819
Cleburne3825
Lamar3702
Choctaw35112
Greene30315
Coosa1723
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