The Section 201 Trade Case, Part II: In the Hands of DIPs

This article is the second in a three-part series on the Suniva/SolarWorld trade case.

The 201 trade case is being financed and organized by Suniva’s “Debtors in Possession” or DIPs. These firms want their money back. The 201 trade case is a desperate attempt to do just that.

If you think DIP firms have the interests of former employees or American solar manufacturing workers at heart, you are sorely mistaken. In fact, back in May, the original Suniva DIP made an offer to the Chinese solar industry to withdraw the filing if the Chinese would pay them $55 million. Suniva appears to have no plans to restart its manufacturing operations.

When a company files for a bankruptcy, the debtors take control of the business and assets as Debtors in Possession and provide funding to continue the operations or dispose of the assets. Suniva’s original DIP was SQN Asset Servicing, LLC (“SAS”) and certain affiliates. One of those affiliates, SQN Ventures, LLC (“SQN”), a British venture firm, with major operations in New York and London, had previously loaned Suniva nearly $50 million that was secured by all the company’s assets.

In April, SAS provided Suniva with $4 million to prosecute the Section 201 trade case. After the original filing, another venture firm, New York-based Red Lion Capital, put up $1.5 million and joined SAS as a fellow “Debtor in Possession.”

SQN Asset Services is the entity that financed and organized the Section 201 trade case. It is definitely not an American-owned firm. In fact, SAS does not even want you to enter their website if you are an “American Person.” Just go to their website, click on the “Asset Finance” link at the bottom of the page, and you’ll see what I mean.

Moreover, SAS is a British firm chartered on the island of Guernsey, another tax haven. Recently, a retired London-based investment banker I spoke with described Guernsey as “the soft underbelly of English capitalism.” Why? Because a lot of unsavory types are known to channel money through this tax shelter haven.

Why Organize Your Business in A Tax Haven?

Companies are chartered or incorporated in tax havens like Guernsey, the Cayman Islands and Panama for two reasons: tax avoidance and shareholder privacy. Plenty of well-known American firms, including Google, Apple and Amazon, have incorporated offshore subsidiaries in such places to avoid U.S. taxation.

But publicly-traded firms who own such subsidiaries typically disclose their existence. Thousands of other firms and individuals worldwide use such tax shelters to shield the real owners of entities from public view. Unfortunately, the “real” owners can include corrupt government officials, oligarchs, organized crime kingpins, dictators and other nefarious types whose ownership could not survive the light of day.

Unless there is a major leak of confidential information like what happened in 2015 with the tax shelter law firm in Panama, we may never know who actually owns the firm that is financing the Section 201 trade case. However, based on the warning on their website, we do know that SQN Asset Services is not owned by Americans.

Having established that this trade case is being funded by foreign companies that don’t have American workers’ interests at heart, we’ll look in the final installment of this series to see if there is any benefit to American solar workers if Trump upholds Suniva’s petition.

Lead image: Wayne National Forest | CC BY 2.0 | Wikimedia Commons

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Since 2007 Mr. Clifford has led Standard Solar’s rapid growth into a nationally known PV developer/ EPC. Mr. Clifford began his career at Solarex Corporation, later acquired by British Petroleum and known as BP Solar. Throughout his career, Mr. Clifford has served as chief executive officer or chief financial officer of three high growth technology companies that were acquired by major corporations. He is an elected board member of the national Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), serves on SEIA’s Executive Committee and also served as president of the regional chapter of SEIA, MDV-SEIA from 2009 to 2012. Mr. Clifford is the author of a DOE report entitled Tax-Advantaged Investments in Renewable Energy Projects; and received a “Special Achievement Award for Technology Demonstration” from the U. S. Secretary of Energy. He was awarded the 2011 Industry Leader Award by the Maryland Clean Energy Center (MCEC), for his contributions to the advancement of solar and other clean energy resources in the state. Mr. Clifford earned his MBA at University of Virginia’s Darden School and his undergraduate degree at Penn State.

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