Battery Maker A123 Got Almost $1 Million From US on Day of Bankruptcy
Friday, 16 Nov 2012
A123 Systems Inc., the electric-car battery producer, received a U.S.
Energy Department grant payment of almost $1 million on the same day
it filed for bankruptcy last month.
The $946,830 payment was part of a $115.8 million grant the company,
based in Waltham, Massachusetts, received from U.S. economic-stimulus
funding intended to spur development of electric cars.
Republican Senators Charles Grassley of Iowa and John Thune of South
Dakota disclosed the timing of the payment today when they released a
Nov. 14 letter from Eric Pyenson, A123 vice president and general
The payment was made after A123 in August announced it planned to give
Wanxiang Group Corp., China’s largest auto-parts maker, a majority
stake in exchange for financing. Grassley and Thune had questioned the
Chinese investment in the U.S. company.
“All of this paints a disturbing picture,” Grassley and Thune said in
an e-mailed statement. “The Department of Energy is writing checks to
a company literally as it is declaring bankruptcy.”
The letter’s release today adds to Republican criticism of President
Barack Obama’s support of green-energy programs that included loans
and grants to produce more fuel-efficient cars and support the
development of solar and other alternative energy sources. Republican
presidential candidate Mitt Romney said during a debate that Obama
picked “losers” to receive energy aid.
Damien LaVera, an Energy Department spokesman, had no immediate
The total Energy Department grant to A123 was for $249.1 million, of
which the company has received less than half.
A123 filed for bankruptcy protection after saying it would have to
spend $55 million to replace defective battery packs that forced
startup electric-car maker Fisker Automotive Inc., also a recipient of
U.S. assistance, to recall its $103,000 Karma sedans.
A123 Chief Executive Officer David Vieau didn’t respond to an e-mail
A123 yesterday in a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing
said it got court approval for bonuses worth as much as $4.2 million
to 10 employees for staying on the payroll as the company’s assets are
sold. The payouts of at least $2.4 million range from 70 percent to
100 percent of each employee’s base salary, according to the filing.
A123, which plans to sell its automotive-business assets to
Milwaukee-based Johnson Controls Inc., had also supplied plug-in car
batteries to General Motors Co., Bayerische Motoren Werke AG,
truckmaker Navistar International Corp. and SAIC Motor Corp., China’s
largest domestic carmaker.
The company won court approval Nov. 8 to sell its assets at a Dec. 6
auction, where bidders will include both Johnson Controls and
Wanxiang, which has said it wants to be the lead bidder for all of
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