Warren Buffett’s Co. Takes $377M Hit from ‘Ponzi Scheme’

Berkshire Hathaway unwittingly helped fund the lavish lifestyles of the company’s leadership.

If you were to visit DC Solar’s website, you’d see a professional-looking dot-com, tiled with images of the company’s solar generators in action. You’ll also notice the proud press releases focusing on DC Solar’s sponsorship of premier NASCAR brands, including Chip Ganassi Racing.

What you won’t see is that the Ganassi sponsorship fizzled after the company was raided in December of 2018 – under suspicion it’s being operated as a Ponzi scheme – and after its assets were frozen, subsequently filed for bankruptcy.

DC Solar is being accused of selling and renting solar generators to major companies – including manufacturers like Sherwin Williams.

According to Bloomberg, the company was tricking buyers into believing they were eligible for lucrative tax credits and deductions, which were later determined to be invalid. Investigators also found shady bookkeeping that suggested that what appeared on paper to be lease sales were actually being covered by investor funds and early investors were being paid back by later ones which… kind of does sound like a Ponzi Scheme.

And while many successful companies became intertwined with DC Solar, the most recent to come out has been Berkshire Hathaway, the holding company run by the famous billionaire Warren Buffett, who just took a write-down of $377 million related to its investment in the company.

For its part, DC Solar still contends that it’s a legitimate business. In fact, an attorney for Jeff Carpoff – the CEO behind the company whose home was also raided by the FBI -- told Bloomberg that DC Solar was “an innovative” and “ credible” business, and that “any allegation that there was a Ponzi scheme or anything illegal about the operation of the business is without merit.”

The case is still playing out, but it’s a bit tough to give Jeff Carpoff, and his wife Paulette, the benefit of the doubt when you get a look at the lavish lifestyle they led – as laid out by Business Insider. The report outlines millions in expenditures from the power couple, including a professional baseball team, a nearly $800,000 box at the new Raiders stadium in Nevada, and millions in planes and cars.

Business Insider adds that the company’s headquarters was sitting on literal piles of cash, including about $2 million hidden in safes and in desk drawers. Then there are anecdotes like the following, that don’t help to prove you’re running an above-board business: according to Bloomberg’s sources,

“Jeff Carpoff often pulled out up to $2,000 in cash at staff meetings, challenged employees to guess how much he was holding, and handed the wad to whoever made the best guess.”

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