Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Ethanol plant: Shareholder’s federal charges won’t impact Garnett facility

By ABBY ECKEL, Herald Staff Writer | 2/26/2014

GARNETT — Criminal charges against a key shareholder shouldn’t fuel speculation about a local ethanol plant’s future, the company’s top officer said Wednesday night.

Scott Brittenham, chief executive officer of Clean Energy Capital LLC, and Clean Energy Capital LLC, an Arizona-based investment firm, have recently been charged by the Securities and Exchange Commission “for orchestrating a scheme to misallocate their expenses to the funds they manage,” according to a press release from the SEC.

GARNETT — Criminal charges against a key shareholder shouldn’t fuel speculation about a local ethanol plant’s future, the company’s top officer said Wednesday night.

Scott Brittenham, chief executive officer of Clean Energy Capital LLC, and Clean Energy Capital LLC, an Arizona-based investment firm, have recently been charged by the Securities and Exchange Commission “for orchestrating a scheme to misallocate their expenses to the funds they manage,” according to a press release from the SEC.

“The SEC Enforcement Division alleges that Brittenham and Clean Energy Capital improperly paid more than $3 million of the firm’s expenses by using assets from 19 private equity funds that invest in private ethanol production plants,” the SEC release said.

Clean Energy Capital is one of East Kansas Agri-Energy’s largest shareholders, Jeff Oestmann, president and chief executive officer of EKAE, confirmed Wednesday. But Oestmann said he did not anticipate the SEC charges against Brittenham and Clean Energy Capital would have any impact on the Garnett plant.

“I don’t think this will have any effect on the [Garnett plant’s] operations or performance, whatsoever,” Oestmann said.

According to the SEC, Brittenham’s firm used the money it misallocated to pay for things like Clean Energy Capital’s rent, tuition reimbursement, employees’ salaries and 70 percent of a $100,000 bonus Brittenham gave himself.

The plant’s top executive said he could not provide additional details about the SEC allegations, because he was just seeing them for the first time, he said.

Oestmann said he has not been contacted by SEC investigators regarding the allegations against Brittenham and Clean Energy Capital. He confirmed that Brittenham is no longer a member of EKAE’s board of directors.

This isn’t the first time Brittenham has caused problems for EKAE. In late July, Bill Pracht, chairman of the EKAE board of directors, announced the ethanol plant’s plan to reopen after a year-long hiatus, but Brittenham was trying to oust Pracht and the rest of the board of directors, Pracht said previously.

A previous press release from Brittenham and Clean Energy Capital said the shareholders of the ethanol plant were taking steps to reconstruct the company’s board of directors.

The concerned shareholders and Brittenham cited a “series of financial and strategic missteps,” by the board of directors that caused the plant’s year-long shutdown.

Pracht said previously those reports were false and that shareholders had seen substantial return on their investment.

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