Bankruptcy and the corporate skunks

You know, skunks get a bad rap!  I admit they do get a little funky at times, but mostly when you mess with them or, worse, run over them with your car.  But that smell is nothing compared to what’s coming out of the Edison Mission Energy (EME) bankruptcy proceedings.

Seems the US Bankruptcy Court of Chicago saw fit to grant Edison Mission permission to stiff some 300 current and 160 future retirees out of the large sum of money due to them.

According to Industries News Press, Edison Mission originally wanted to cut these folk’s health and retirement benefits more severely, but the impacted employees decided to fight back in an attempt to get the $70,000,000 owed to them.

The Court decided that, instead of paying the full $70 million due, Edison Mission could get away with only paying some $23 million.  According to the article, “the settlement says nonunion retirees’ benefits will remain in effect for a short while longer, while union retirees’ benefits will be paid through March 31, 2015.”  By my estimate, that’s a $46 million shortfall or, retirees got a third of what was due to them.  Keep that number in mind – $46 million.

Maybe, in this time of financial pain, getting a third of what is due to you is considered a victory for the little guy.  On the other hand, my cynical nature leads me to suspect the Lawyers representing both sides of the argument are likely pretty happy with their piece of the pie.  (And, he says naively … I hope none of the lawyer fees came out of the pensioner’s $23 million.)

You might wonder why I care, since I’m not a past or current employee of Edison Mission.  These things happen all the time!  Edison Mission is bankrupt so these people are lucky they got anything … stop whining!  Besides, the court agrees with the settlement!  Time to move on!

Well, here’s what rubs me the wrong way.  I live under the Pinnacle wind plant in Keyser, WV.  Edison Mission – Pinnacle’s owner of record in August of 2012 received over $44,000,000 (that’s $44 million) from the United States Treasury Taxpayers as a grant simply for building the 23 turbine wind plant on the Allegheny Front.

In December of 2012, just four damned months after receiving the $44 million Taxpayer subsidy for simply building Pinnacle, the company declared themselves bankrupt.  Does anyone acutally believe EME and it’s corporate mother Edison International (EI) were not already working on the bankruptcy at the same time they were running to the Bank to cash the $44 million Taxpayer handout!  A bankruptcy of this magnitude isn’t decided over lunch, folks.

Something smells!

Want to know what else smells?  The US Treasury Taxpayers handing over $44 million to a for-profit company which, in a mere four months, declares bankruptcy and, now, thanks to a court ruling, the bankrupt company, or one of the other corporate players in this saga, not only gets to keep the $44 million corporate welfare check, the court allows EME to rip off its past and current employees for nearly the same amount – $46 million.

I know nearly every lawyer will claim that it’s apples and oranges and the the Court must rule according to the law and blah and blah and blah – it’s the law, its the law!  Well, that might be technically correct … but it’s just not right!  The US Bankruptcy Court should be savvy enough to smoke this little cash deal out, and, if current law doesn’t protect employees from this financial slight of hand, the Court should demand Congress give them the tools to act fairly.

Adding salt to the Taxpayer and retirees wounds … EME accused it’s corporate mother, EI, of “plundering Edison Mission of hundreds of millions of dollars before the bankruptcy filing.”  I can only assume the $44 million and the $46 million were part of the alleged pirate raid.

But, not to worry, these bickering corporations had a “Kumbayah” moment and “reached a settlement that dropped the threat of litigation and set out a plan to share more than a $1 billion in tax benefits.”

Something smells!.

And what of the remaining players – Edison International and NRG Energy?

Edison International Stock was selling for around $45/share in December 2012.  Today it is $56.  EME’s Momma came out OK, I’d say.

NRG Energy, a huge energy producer, concluded a purchase of Edison Mission Energy in April of this year.  If you watch the market reports lately, this newly minted second largest US power company seems to be doing great.  The stock seems to be in a steady climb.

Maybe one of these two corporate giants will kick in a little to the pension fund.  I’m sure they feel bad about the employees getting stiffed of the $46 million they planned to live on and now have little working life left to recover.  Maybe if NRG Energy or Edison International happen to stumble across the $44 million the US Treasury Taxpayers so generously handed the bankrupt for-profit Edison Mission for just one of their projects, they’ll kick in a little to the retirees.

But frankly, I doubt if any of the gang of three will do what’s right.  EME practically said they would have taken even more from the pensioners if they could.  I hope I’m wrong, but EI and NRG Energy will likely claim a comfortable distance from the bankruptcy ruling which effectively subsidized their profits on the backs of the pensioners and Taxpayers.

Nah … apples and oranges, remember!

And anyway, the $44 million Taxpayer dollars which subsidized a third of the cost of construction at the Pinnacle wind plant in West Virginia is likely lost in the shuffle of billions floating from ledger to ledger.  Gone from the US Taxpayer’s pockets and into the pockets of one of the three for-profit corporations.

It’s not surprising that $44 or $46 million gets lost in the shuffle I suppose.  When you consider that more than $20,000,000,000.00 ($20 billion) Taxpayer dollars has been handed out to for-profit corporations just from the 1603 Grant program for renewable energy alone and billions and billions of Taxpayer money is forked over to for-profit companies in the form of Production Tax Credits and other tax incentives.  It’s either hard to keep track of these paltry millions or …

Something smells!

It’s my opinion that the US Government Taxpayer should not be subsidizing any for-profit company for anything … anything … anything!

Secondly, we need a level of intelligence and fair play much higher than displayed in this bankruptcy action.  Any legal process which allows the taking of committed employee benefits due to corporate’s unintended or intentional mismanagement of finances, while walking away with profits, must be changed.

As the dust settles, the Bankruptcy Judge heads home, the attorneys meet at the country club to discuss tactics for the next case and the retirees and lowly Taxpayers scramble to piece together what’s left of their money in order to pay the monthly bills.

Something smells!

Oh, a question for the officials charged with protecting the Taxpayers of tiny Mineral County, WV – has assurance been given that all agreements, including the poorly constructed decommission agreement, are safe from the same peril experienced by the pensioners?

And while you’re at it, with which corporate entity will the County leaders revisit the Decommission Agreement in just a few years?  Just kidding … I realize that’s an unfair question.  With the way these wind LLC’s change names and ownership passed around like hot potatoes, who knows who will own Pinnacle in 2 – 3 years?

But, look at the bright side … maybe when Pinnacle’s massive Japanese made turbines mounted on the huge Mexican made towers come tumbling down, someone might find the $44 million in subsidies the US Treasury Taxpayers handed to the for-profit Edison Mission Energy four months before it declared bankruptcy tucked away inside.  Wouldn’t that be a hoot!

In fairness, there’s no doubt I’m missing something.  One of these kindly corporations will let me know I’m wrong and that they are, in fact, looking out for the little guy.  I’ll probably get comments from NRG Energy, EI or even EME explaining how they made the retirees whole and how the Taxpayers should be proud of their investment in the now bankrupt EME.  Heck, I’ll probably feel so bad that I ranted on about this topic that I’ll immediately begin working on my apology.  I’m ready to eat crow!

And, who knows … I might finally hear back from the elected officials I penned the open letter to way back in August of 2011.

But, until all that happens, I hope you don’t mind if I hang out with the skunk!

This entry was posted in Decommission, Edison Mission Group, Energy Ethics, Industrial Wind Taxes, Mineral County WV, Pinnacle Wind Farm, Wind Power subsidies, Wind tax rebates and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Bankruptcy and the corporate skunks

  1. WV Highlands says:

    Sometimes it is worth looking at company from an insider’s view. It often offers insight into how EME is managed or mismanaged. http://www.glassdoor.com/Reviews/Edison-Mission-Energy-Reviews-E14524.htm

    Also looking at the biography of the managers…may provide insight into this company…as well as their salary..http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/930835/000110465913033560/a13-10600_110ka.htm

  2. Pingback: Bankruptcy and the corporate skunks | ajmarciniak

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