Polysilicon manufacturers named in U.S. lawsuit

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The particulars of the lawsuit being brought by the trustees of liquidated U.S. thin film manufacturer Energy Conversion Devices against Trina Solar, Yingli and Suntech name polysilicon manufacturers ‘such as’ GCL-Poly, Jiangsu Shunda and Daqo New Energy Corp as co-conspirators.

Legal documents lodged with the U.S. District Court Eastern District of Michigan, detail how the defendants allegedly conspired with each other and with polysilicon suppliers; China Development Bank, Bank of China and the Export-Import Bank of China; Chinese state body the National Energy Administration; and trade organization the China New Energy Chamber of Commerce to fix artificially low prices for Chinese panels with aim of driving American manufacturers out of business.

The antitrust and restraint of trade lawsuit being brought by the Energy Conversion Devices Liquidation Trust claims top executives from the three module manufacturers used meetings of the China New Energy International Forum to share information and co-ordinate price falls.

The legal papers, seen by pv magazine, say the chairmen of Trina Solar and Suntech were both on the board of China New Energy Chamber of Commerce and the chairman and CEO of Yingli was a director.

‘Prices fell 40% after trade forum meeting’

The details of the claim say panel prices from the three suppliers fell 40% in the wake of the second meeting of the chamber’s International Forum on December 11 and 12, 2007.

The Trust says the Chinese manufacturers benefited from polysilicon prices not made available to competitors and were loaned more than US$17 billion at below market rates by the banks named with payment dates regularly rolled over in a move already labelled part of illegal subsidies and of no legitimate business purpose by the U.S. Department of Commerce – revelations which will prove interesting to the European module manufacturers pressing the EU to apply anti subsidy measures to Chinese-made modules.

The claim directly quotes Suntech founder and former CEO Shi Zhengrong as saying: "Suntech is building market share, is supplying panels on the American market for less than the cost of materials, assembly and shipping," although the court documents do not provide any context for the remarks.

‘ECD was denied access to a $200 billion market’

The papers state the amount of damages being claimed by the trust will be proven in court but adds Yingli and Trina – which the particulars say share a registered company headquarters in the Cayman Islands tax haven – together with Suntech, caused the failure of an Energy Conversion Devices company with a book value of $950 million and denied the company access to a U.S. commercial and industrial rooftop market worth more than $200 billion.

In a statement issued yesterday in response to the lawsuit, Robert Petrina, managing director of Yingli Green Energy Americas, said: "We are still reviewing the filing, but at first glance these are baseless claims that seem similar to the Solyndra antitrust case.

"In both instances, the companies are bankrupt and appear to be blaming others for their own failed thin-film technology and flawed business models.

"We will continue to aggressively defend ourselves and expect that Yingli will prevail in both cases."