As time goes on, it’s looking more and more like there may be a regulatory investigation going on behind the scenes at First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ:FSLR). Responses to several requests under the Freedom of Information Act suggest that the solar company may indeed be under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Undisclosed investigation at First Solar?
Probes Reporter has sent several requests for detailed records on First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ:FSLR) that are usually open to the public. However, the website states that those requests have come back with denials from the SEC citing the “law enforcement exemption” of the Freedom of Information Act. The folks at Probes Reporter add that this is the same response they have received in multiple requests for information dating back to Sept. 18, 2012.
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They said on March 27, 2014, the SEC confirmed that First Solar was “somehow involved in a recently active and ongoing investigation,” states Probes Reporter. The website further adds, “A confirmed investigation is the highest standard we can achieve regarding undisclosed SEC activity at a public company.”
First Solar conducted internal investigation
First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ:FSLR) did reference an SEC action in a 10-Q it filed on Nov. 1, 2013, but the Probes Reporter team believes the undisclosed investigation it believes is going on is not related to that reported SEC action. The SEC action reported by First Solar in November 2013 references an internal investigation it informed the SEC of on Sept. 23, 2011.
The company’s investigation was in connection with a “possible violation of Regulation FD.” First Solar said it was due to a failure by its Topaz Solar Farm project to meet a required deadline to receive a guarantee for a federal loan from the U.S. Dept. of Energy. After completing that internal investigation, First Solar selected a new vice president of investor regulations. The SEC also investigated the issue, but it completed that investigation by Sept. 3, 2013.
Other issues weigh on First Solar
Of course the idea that a company might have an undisclosed regulatory investigation open is never a good thing, but there are also other issues weighing on First Solar’s stock. Seeking Alpha contributor Lior Cohen brought up three problems that are dragging down the stock. Shares have plunged 33% in just the last three months.
First, First Solar revised its full year guidance and cut its projections for sales by 3%. That was only a small revision, but apparently it was enough to spook investors. Second, he identified some issues with the company’s profit margins, which have been falling steadily over the last year.
And third, First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ:FSLR) is seeing macro-economic pressures because of concerns about oil and solar stocks in general. Falling oil prices have pressured not only First Solar, but also competitors like SunPower Corporation (NASDAQ:SPWR).