Businesses ranging from Silicon Valley venture capitalists to a small Massachusetts solar installer say they are owed money by SunEdison Inc, underscoring the breadth of a breakneck expansion seen contributing to the solar and wind energy company’s financial woes.
Two dozen legal claims have been made since the beginning of the year against SunEdison (SUNE.N) and its executives, mainly from shareholders who claim the company misled them about its financial position, a review of cases on Westlaw showed.
None of the lawsuits reviewed have yet been adjudicated, nor have the claims been validated. Most are too recent for SunEdison to have filed a response to, and the company did not respond to requests for comment.
SunEdison also faces a major lawsuit from solar installer Vivint Solar Inc (VSLR.N) for failing to complete its $1.9 billion acquisition of the company. In its annual filing in March last year it disclosed only two significant lawsuits.
Roughly half a dozen suits filed since February for breach of contract claims from partners and suppliers offer a window into the reach of SunEdison. In just a few years, the maker of silicon “wafers” for solar cells has transformed itself into the world’s fastest growing renewable energy developer, taking on projects as small as a family home or as big as a desert solar array.
SunEdison’s shares have fallen about 98 percent over the past 12 months. It faces a cash crunch, a $12 billion debt pile, and scrutiny from U.S. regulators over a failed deal, among other issues. [ID: nL3N1735EJ]
The breadth of partner lawsuits showed the results of an “out of control shopping spree” in 2014 and 2015, said Pavel Molchanov, an analyst who follows the solar industry for Raymond James.
“This was expansion on steroids and obviously we are seeing how that movie is ending very badly because the company is struggling to keep up with its bills,” Molchanov said.
The claims themselves are still being adjudicated, and the number is not unusually high for a bankruptcy, but the variety of claimants indicates nervousness among creditors, said Rick Antonoff, a bankruptcy attorney with Blank Rome LLP, who is not involved in SunEdison cases.
Westlaw did not show responses from SunEdison in the partner and supplier cases, aside from one request for time.
The company is expected to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection within weeks, the Wall Street Journal reported, .
Clients big and small are seeking payments. Western, Massachusetts based Valley Home Improvement Inc says it is owed $37,000 for installing solar panels on two homes, while temporary staffing firm Aerotek Inc on Friday alleged SunEdison failed to pay more than $1 million at projects in Colorado, California and elsewhere.
And Silicon Valley green energy investor Vinod Khosla’s firm, Khosla Ventures, and venture capital firm Sigma Partners and Fortis Advisors sued SunEdison in March for allegedly stopping payments for its 2013 acquisition of solar heating startup EchoFirst Inc.
Khosla and partners say SunEdison owes $6 million on the $27.5 million deal.
Suppliers are also lining up, particularly those that provided materials to the Pasadena, Texas polysilicon plant that SunEdison in February said it would close.
ECKA Granules of America LLC, which makes aluminum powder used to make solar cells in March claimed $1.4 million. It said SunEdison has not returned two railcars used to deliver powder.
Suppliers want to collect as much as possible before bankruptcy, said attorney Antonoff. They are “being proactive in taking action now to collect rather than waiting around to see what SunEdison does,” he said.
(Editing by Peter Henderson and Andrew Hay)
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