How Unsustainable Business Practices Have Enabled Today’s Market Meltdown

Jeff Siegel
updated | Author's Website

Our primary focus is renewable energy, however, we also like to focus some attention on corporate responsibility. After all, a lack of corporate responsibility often leads to unsustainable business practices.

And there’s no better case study involving unsustainable business practices than what we’re seeing today in the financial sector.

Early this morning, I watched Senator McCain, Senator Clinton, and Senator Obama tell reporters (on different segments of course) that they had been warning about this market meltdown for years.

Then the blame game kicked in, with each side throwing stones at their opponent’s glass egos in an effort to secure just one more vote. Because clearly, this is the best way to fix 8 years of a failed economic policy and an arrogant disregard for fiscal responsibility.

Ask most reputable, non-partisan economists today, and they’ll tell you that the economy hasn’t been this sick since 1929. Ask most politicians, and they’ll tell you that they’ve been trying to avert this catastrophe in an effort to “help the American people.”

Really?

Well let’s take a look at who’s been trying to help us the most, shall we?

The $300 million enabler

Just like any industry today, there are those that spend millions to get on the inside and influence policy. Certainly we’ve seen this with the oil and gas industry. But what about finance, insurance and real estate – the three sectors that have been collectively feeding our economy hot air and hemlock for years?

When it comes to ponying up for access to Washington’s hallowed halls, these guys are no slouches. Certainly they’ve had no problem convincing those on the Hill to put on their headphones while the warning alarms were going off at the height of the real estate boom.

I have no interest in listening to more sound bites of all these politicians claiming they’ve been warning about this, and how they want to protect taxpayers.

Not when a total of $311,235,860 in “contributions” ended up in the pockets of our elected officials.

The financial sector is the largest source of campaign contributions to federal candidates and parties. And the bulk of that money comes from investment firms, insurance companies, real estate, and commercial banks.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the top ten contributors for 2008 are:

  1. Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) – $4,287,701
  2. Citigroup, Inc. (NYSE:C) – $3,438,497
  3. JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM) – $3,029,568
  4. Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS) – $2,842,517
  5. National Association of Realtors – $2,525,300
  6. UBS AG (NYSE:UBS) – $2,256,060
  7. American Bankers Association – $2,029,088
  8. Lehman Brothers (LEH) – $1,921,167
  9. Merrill Lynch (NYSE:MER) – $1,824,505
  10. Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) – $1,800,504

And who took all this money?

Well, it looks like the top ten are evenly split among Democrats and Republicans.

Take a look:

  1. Barack Obama (D) – $22,501,165
  2. Hillary Clinton (D) – $21,534,852
  3. John McCain (R) – $19,560,938
  4. Mitt Romney (R) – $13,757,677
  5. Rudolph Giuliana (R) – $13,525,832
  6. Christopher Dodd (D) – $5.958,468
  7. Bill Richardson (D) – $3,454,112
  8. John Edwards (D) – $2,148,293
  9. Fred Thompson (R) – $1,932,549
  10. Mitch McConnell (R) – $1,789,829

Forgive me if I don’t feel an enormous amount of confidence regarding my concerns as a taxpayer versus the concerns of those companies that shelled out more than $300 million this year.

Caught in a riptide

After years of complacency and disregard for the economic health of the United States, the dominoes are falling – putting many good companies in a precarious position.

Take Evergreen Solar (NASDAQ:ESLR) for instance.

This is a quality solar firm that’s about a year away from profitability. The company has a superior solar manufacturing technology, and just landed a $1.2 billion contract less than 3 months ago. That’s billion – with a “B.”

Unfortunately, back in July the company completed an offering of $373.8 million in notes due in 2012 with Lehman Brothers as the lead underwriter. And according to analysts, if the existing capped call transaction is not honored by Lehman’s successor, Evergreen will have to write off $39.5 million.

The stock lost nearly 30% of its value yesterday!

It really is a shame to see such a quality solar player get caught in this riptide. But this company isn’t the only one. There’s a long list of casualties now that will only continue to grow. And you better believe that this is going to wreak havoc on your portfolio.

The only advantage we have right now is that no matter what happens on Wall Street, the fundamentals of supply and demand continue to dictate the success of the renewable energy industry. So over the long-term, we still come out ahead.

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