Having sold off its manufacturing plant, fired nearly 1,000 workers and proven the non-viability of its business model, Solyndra's only real assets are what the IRS calls "tax attributes." These are between $875 million and $975 million in net operating losses that can reduce future taxable income, which the IRS values as high as $350 million. Before it went toes up, Solyndra also accumulated $12 million in solar tax credits that can reduce tax liabilities dollar for dollar.
Tax-loss carry-forwards are routine but worthless if a company can't turn profits to pay taxes on. So Solyndra's owners are asking the court to liquidate the rest of the business and contribute a net $6.7 million to pay off creditors for pennies on the dollar. A holding corporation will then emerge from Chapter 11 that won't make products or employ workers, but it will get the Solyndra tax offsets.
The dummy company is owned by Argonaut Ventures I LLC, Solyndra's largest shareholder and the primary investment arm of the George Kaiser Family Foundation. Mr. Kaiser is a Tulsa oil billionaire who bundled campaign checks for Mr. Obama in 2008.
Wow, who could have predicted this? Well, lots of folks, including me just over a year ago. I actually underestimated the value, assuming the losses would be worth about $150 million in avoided taxes, not the $350 million the IRS now pegs them at. If I can figure out this game, the Obama Administration had to know what was going on.
If the Administration allows this to happen (and remember that in the GM boondoggle, Obama waived the traditional rules that have bankrupt companies losing their tax loss carryforwards, giving GM a multi-billion dollar tax subsidy almost no one counts in the bailout costs), this will make Kaiser's last cash investment in Solyndra one of the great crony deals of all time.
If you remember, Kaiser (via Argonaut) invested $75 million as Solyndra was going down the tubes. No rational person could have thought that amount would have saved the company, and it didn't. What it bought, we now know, is three things:
- Kaiser got the US Government to give up their lead creditor position to Kaiser, basically putting the US Government behind the Obama donor to get repaid and reducing the taxpayers' influence in the bankruptcy
- It gave Kaiser a few precious months to loot the company. Between that $75 million investment and the bankruptcy, Solyndra sold off most of its liquid assets at a discount to .... Argonaut, the group controlled by Kaiser
- It looks like Kaiser will get nearly a billion dollars in tax losses that can be used to reduce its future taxes by $350 million.