Sunday, April 29, 2012

Should Solar Energy Executives Be Hanged?

Should the executives of some of the largest solar energy companies be tried, and if found guilty of wrong doing, be hanged?

Cato might think so.

That is the judgement of Thomas Gordon in his installment number 3 of  Cato's Letters.

In that letter, he savaged the executive of the South Sea Company, who profited from inflated company stock values after assuming part of the British government's debt.

"They are rogues of prey, they are stock-jobbers, they are a conspiracy of stock-jobbers! A name which carries along with it such a detestable and deadly image, that it exceeds all human invention to aggravate it; nor can nature, with all her variety and stores, furnish out any thing to illustrate its deformities; nay, it gains visible advantage by the worst comparisons that you can make: Your terror lessens, when you liken them to crocodiles and cannibals, who feed, for hunger, on human bodies."

"These monsters, therefore, stand single in the creation: They are stock-jobbers; they have served a whole people as Satan served Job; and so far the Devil is injured, by any analogy that you can make between him and them."

So what should be done with them?

"Well; but monsters as they are, what would you do with them? The answer is short and at hand, hang them."

According to Cato, the only thing standing between the South Sea Company and the gallows was their ill-gotten gains.

"All their hopes of safety must consist in their money; and without question, they will try to make the wages of their villainy protect their villainy."  

Today we suffer the spectacle of Solyndra, whose executives filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after receiving a $535 million dollar loan guarantee approved by the Department of Energy. Before that filing, they received handsome bonuses.

After the news about Solyndra broke, we learned about the federal loan guarantees for SunPower, $1.2 billion, and First Solar, 3.1 billion. These two companies appear to be in financial trouble. Two other companies, Beacon Power Corp and Enerdel, not only received federal loan guarantees, but also paid company executives large bonuses before filing for Chapter 11 protection.

Perhaps they, too, like the South Sea Company directors, should be forced to spend their bonuses in the nearest federal court.

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