Remember Freedom Industries, the fine folks who brought licorice-flavored water and all of its attendant side effects to West Virginians (and possibly folks along the Ohio River) everywhere?
Those guys are filing for bankruptcy. Turns out befouling an entire region's drinking water for the foreseeable future comes with a huge price tag and the folks behind Freedom Industries just aren't prepared to stomach the entire cost:
Freedom Industries, the company that fouled thousands of West Virginians' water with a chemical leak into the Elk River last week, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Friday.
Freedom owes $3.6 million to its top 20 unsecured creditors, according to bankruptcy documents. The company also owes more than $2.4 million in unpaid taxes to the Internal Revenue Service, and the IRS has placed at least three liens on Freedom's property, demanding payment.
The unpaid taxes date back to at least 2000, according to a lien filed in 2010.
Under the bankruptcy code, Chapter 11 permits a company to reorganize and continue operating.
The filing also puts a hold on all of the lawsuits filed against Freedom Industries. Since the leak last week, about a mile and a half upriver from West Virginia Water American's plant in Charleston, about 25 lawsuits have been filed against Freedom in Kanawha Circuit Court. The company also faces a federal lawsuit.
But that's not all:
About an hour after its bankruptcy filing, Freedom filed an emergency motion for what's called "debtor-in-possession," or DIP, financing, which would allow it to secure up to a $5 million loan to continue to function in some capacity. The loan would, according to the filing, "provide additional liquidity to [Freedom] in order to allow it to continue as a going concern."
The lender in a debtor-in-possession case generally gets first priority when it comes time for the debtor, in this case Freedom, to pay money back.
"Under the bankruptcy code, when there is DIP financing from a DIP lender, 99 percent of the time, they get priority over all the other creditors," said Bob Simon, a prominent bankruptcy lawyer with the Pittsburgh firm Reed Smith. "You're putting your money in at risk, and the debtor is not going to have a lot of options, so the bankruptcy clerk permits the DIP lender to get priority over all the other lenders."
Freedom's proposed lender is a company called WV Funding LLC. That company does not exist in West Virginia, according to business records on file with the West Virginia secretary of state. Pennsylvania's secretary of state also has no records online for it.
The DIP agreement has places to sign for Freedom Industries and for WV Funding "by Mountaineer Funding LLC."
Mountaineer Funding was incorporated with the West Virginia secretary of state on Friday. Its one listed member is J. Clifford Forrest, Freedom Industries' owner.
So the owner of Freedom Industries goes and starts a new company the same day of filing the old company's bankruptcy and files an emergency motion that effectively places the new company at the front of the line for the old company's assets in the event of a discharge. It's a slick way to have your cake, eat it and avoid any liability for cleaning up the crumbs afterwards.
And conservatives everywhere not only think this is good business, but want Americans everywhere to hoist the EPA's head on a stick and willingly accept corporate lordship. As serfs, of course. Because every company needs a bunch of serfs who are willing to die for their betters out of sense of misplaced pride and fidelity:
Though some state legislators have called for reforming the state's famously lax regulations, the general response has been to yell at the media and outsiders. The battle cry: Others don't appreciate the personal sacrifices West Virginians make to provide the nation with chemicals and coal.
It is true. Outsiders don't appreciate them and, furthermore, don't respect them. They can't understand why anyone would let absentee landowners level their mountains and bury their streams in waste. Birds don't dirty their own nests.
The hard-luck people of Appalachia deserve their reputation for physical courage and a strong work ethic. But they suffer more from servility than from bad luck. Outsiders wince when the natives angrily declare their independent spirit and then cringe before corporate polluters, however tawdry.(...)
(...)But Waggoner's most powerful "to hell with" was reserved for fellow West Virginians. These were people who bought into the idea of "constant sacrifice as an honorable condition" and who "turned that condition into a culture of perverted, twisted pride and self-righteousness, to be celebrated and defended against outsiders."
Outsiders. Creating an aura of specialness that must be protected from outside influences is how cult leaders keep their members in check. It takes a good deal of mind control to turn mass sucker-dom into a bragging point.
West Virginia is a pretty dire place, even by Appalachian standards. With Big Coal as practically the only opportunity to make a decent living and with those opportunities themselves scarce, the only thing that's often left is pride. And when all a person has is their pride...