I thought this article from Zero Hedge was a pretty good window into the bankruptcy process for those of us unfamiliar with what goes on. The most interesting point is that by allowing Argonaut to cut ahead of taxpayers as the senior creditor, the Obama Administration virtually ceded control of the bankruptcy process to Argonaut. Argonaut has put up the debtor-in-possession financing as well, and the combination of these two positions gives it pretty tight control of the process going forward
The plan put forward is a four-week sale of the company. The logic behind this very rapid schedule is that Solyndra is still burning cash at the rate of $1mm a week. How long will the $4mm DIP financing last? Four weeks. The terms of the DIP makes it a sure thing that Solyndra is going to be sold ASAP. That sounds good. But not for the DOE.
The one-month period is a very short time frame. The likely result will be that no serious alternative buyer will appear. Should that happen, the senior creditor will get all of the assets of the company at the end of 30 days. That would be Argonaut. It's possible that Argonaut will end up owning a company that lists $850mm in assets for less than $100mm.
I am not sure taxpayers were ever going to get anything out of this mess -- the combination of a high-cost manufacturing plant with me-too technology in a commoditized business was never going to be wildly valuable -- but the Administrations decision to allow Argonaut to jump the seniority line has pretty much assured that whatever value that might be there will go to Argonaut and not the taxpayers.
Postscript: Someone might argue that the decision in February to allow Argnaut the senior position was required to get them to put up the $75 million that was necessary at the time to keep operating. I am positive this is true, given the condition of Solyndra finances at the time. However, the right answer at the time was to shut the thing down then, while the US had seniority and before Argonaut cleaned out all the assets of value (as they did this summer, selling inventories and receivables to themselves). The company had no real prospects of ever making money when it was first financed two years ago and certainly did not in February. The $75 million in February was less financing and more a pre-emptive bid for the company's carcass in the inevitable bankruptcy, and it will likely play out exactly this way.
Update: I have read that Argonaut may be interested in the $500 million of tax losses. These are tricky to use, and only Argonaut of all potential buyers could reasonably make use of them. These might be worth $150 million in avoided taxes, so the $75 million price might make sense. If Argonaut pulls this off, it would mean that the decision to accept their $75 million in financing is even more costly to the taxpayers. Not only did they miss out on whatever value might be in the company, but it also created the opportunity for $150 million in tax avoidance that comes right out of Uncle Sam's coffers.