Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Solyndra Bonuses

For a start-up competing with China on cost, Solyndra paid pretty high salaries. Back in February, a bankruptcy judge approved $370k of bonuses for 20 employees. As a taxpayer, I think it's a total scam, but what's another $0.4M on top of $535M?

Business Week
Feb. 22 (Bloomberg) -- Solyndra LLC, the failed solar-panel maker that got $535 million in government loan guarantees before filing for bankruptcy, won court approval to pay some of its remaining workers as much as $368,500 in bonuses.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Mary Walrath granted the company approval to pay the bonuses to 20 employees if they can achieve certain milestones during the bankruptcy case.

I saw a link to the actual court documents and Exhibit A lists the 20 employees' title, bonus, base salary, and last salary increase. Here is a sample (remember that Solyndra filed for bankruptcy in August 2011):

- Sr. Manager, Manufacturing Eng, $159k, 11/7/2011
- Sr. Manager, Manufacturing Eng, $162k, 11/7/2011
- Sr. Director, Prod Line Main, $206k, 11/7/2011
- Sr. Director, Finance, $191k, 11/7/2011
- Director of FP and A, $150k, 9/13/2010
- Sr. Director, Corp Controller, $189k, 11/7/2011
- Senior Accountant, $114k, 12/5/2011

Since Solyndra was a "Silicon Valley" start-up, I assume that stock options were a large part of the total compensation package. Wikipedia says Solyndra has ~1100 employees; if that's true, then those salaries are really high. My current company has almost 1800 employees and their Director of FP&A makes more than our Director of FP&A (me!). Actually, all the salaries are way above what we pay, and above what was typical at Broadcom for similar titles. I thought huge salaries and bonuses only come when your business is successful. Also, most of the people on the list received pay raises after the bankruptcy. Seriously, WTF?

Maybe this is the business model... start a company, make pretty PowerPoint slides, get VC and government money, live large, file bankruptcy when cash runs out, and repeat. Leon, we're doing it wrong!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

yeah i know we are doing it wrong.

no connections in beijing or sili-valley.

Solyndra was run by an ex-AMAT guy named chris gronet. he had a reputation of being a playboy when he was at AMAT. he originally sold his equipment company to AMAT right out of grad school at stanford.

in the quest to grow big fast, Solyndra paid salaries 20~30% higher sili-valley levels. same story, VCs want you to grow big fast. to do that you need people. to get the people you dangle bigger and bigger carrots.