9. COMMITMENTS AND CONTINGENCIES
|9 Months Ended|
Sep. 30, 2015
|Commitments and Contingencies Disclosure [Abstract]|
|9. COMMITMENTS AND CONTINGENCIES||
Sales Commitments At September 30, 2015, the Company had sales contracts with its major customers to sell certain quantities of ethanol and co-products. The Company had fixed-price sales contracts to sell $6,593,000 of ethanol and indexed-price contracts to sell 176,108,000 gallons of ethanol. At September 30, 2015, the Company had fixed-price sales contracts to sell $18,778,000 of co-products and indexed-price sales contracts to sell 13,000 tons of co-products. These sales contracts are scheduled to be completed throughout 2015.
Purchase Commitments At September 30, 2015, the Company had fixed-price purchase contracts with its suppliers to purchase $7,749,000 of ethanol, $10,625,000 of corn and indexed-price contracts to purchase 23,892,000 gallons of ethanol. These contracts are scheduled to be satisfied throughout the remainder of 2015.
Litigation The Company is subject to various claims and contingencies in the ordinary course of its business, including those related to litigation, business transactions, employee-related matters, and others. When the Company is aware of a claim or potential claim, it assesses the likelihood of any loss or exposure. If it is probable that a loss will result and the amount of the loss can be reasonably estimated, the Company will record a liability for the loss. If the loss is not probable or the amount of the loss cannot be reasonably estimated, the Company discloses the claim if the likelihood of a potential loss is reasonably possible and the amount involved could be material. While there can be no assurances, the Company does not expect that any of its pending legal proceedings will have a material financial impact on the Companys operating results.
Pacific Ethanol, Inc., through a subsidiary acquired in its acquisition of Aventine, became involved in a pending lawsuit with Western Sugar Cooperative (Western Sugar) that pre-dated the Aventine acquisition.
On February 27, 2015, Western Sugar filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado (Case No. 1:15-cv-00415) naming Aventine Renewable Energy, Inc. (ARE, Inc.), one of Aventines subsidiaries, as defendant. Western Sugar amended its complaint on April 21, 2015. ARE, Inc. purchased surplus sugar through a United States Department of Agriculture program. Western Sugar was one of the entities that warehoused this sugar for ARE, Inc. The suit alleges that ARE, Inc. breached its contract with Western Sugar by failing to pay certain penalty rates for the storage of its sugar or alternatively failing to pay a premium rate for storage. Western Sugar alleges that the penalty rates apply because ARE, Inc. failed to take timely delivery or otherwise cause timely shipment of the sugar. Western Sugar claims expectation damages in the amount of approximately $8.6 million. ARE, Inc. filed answers to Western Sugars complaint and amended complaint generally denying Western Sugars allegations and asserting various defenses. The case is currently in its discovery phase.
The Company, through subsidiaries acquired in its acquisition of Aventine, became involved in various pending lawsuits with Aurora Cooperative Elevator Company (Aurora Coop) that pre-dated the Aventine acquisition.
On July 26, 2015, the Company settled all outstanding litigation with Aurora Coop. The Company and Aurora Coop agreed to dismiss all lawsuits with prejudice with no admission of fault or liability by the parties, and to release the alleged option held by Aurora Coop to repurchase the land upon which the Companys 110 million gallon ethanol production facility in Aurora, Nebraska is located (the Aurora West Facility). In addition, the parties agreed to terminate the grain supply, marketing and various other agreements between them or their subsidiaries. Under the terms of the settlement, the Company and Aurora Coop will each bear its own costs and fees associated with the lawsuits and the settlement. The Company and Aurora Coop agreed to continue to work together to amend or replace certain real property easements currently in place to ensure continued mutual access by both parties to a system of rails, rail switches, roads, electrical improvements, and utilities already constructed near the Aurora West Facility.
On May 24, 2013, GS CleanTech Corporation (GS CleanTech), filed a suit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California, Sacramento Division (Case No.: 2:13-CV-01042-JAM-AC), naming Pacific Ethanol, Inc. as a defendant. On August 29, 2013, the case was transferred to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana and made part of the pre-existing multi-district litigation involving GS CleanTech and multiple defendants. The suit alleged infringement of a patent assigned to GS CleanTech by virtue of certain corn oil separation technology in use at one or more of the ethanol production facilities in which the Company has an interest, including Pacific Ethanol Stockton LLC (PE Stockton), located in Stockton, California. The complaint sought preliminary and permanent injunctions against the Company, prohibiting future infringement on the patent owned by GS CleanTech and damages in an unspecified amount adequate to compensate GS CleanTech for the alleged patent infringement, but in any event no less than a reasonable royalty for the use made of the inventions of the patent, plus attorneys fees. The Company answered the complaint, counterclaimed that the patent claims at issue, as well as the claims in several related patents, are invalid and unenforceable and that the Company is not infringing. Pacific Ethanol, Inc. does not itself use any corn oil separation technology and may seek a dismissal on those grounds.
On March 17 and March 18, 2014, GS CleanTech filed suit naming as defendants two Company subsidiaries: PE Stockton and Pacific Ethanol Magic Valley, LLC (PE Magic Valley). The claims were similar to those filed against Pacific Ethanol, Inc. in May 2013. These two cases were transferred to the multi-district litigation division in United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, where the case against Pacific Ethanol, Inc. was pending. Although PE Stockton and PE Magic Valley do separate and market corn oil, Pacific Ethanol, Inc., PE Stockton and PE Magic Valley strongly disagree that either of the subsidiaries use corn oil separation technology that infringes the patent owned by GS CleanTech. In a January 16, 2015 decision, the District Court for the Southern District of Indiana ruled in favor of a stipulated motion for partial summary judgment for Pacific Ethanol, Inc., PE Stockton and PE Magic Valley finding that all of the GS Cleantech patents in the suit were invalid and, therefore, not infringed. GS Cleantech has said it will appeal this decision when the remaining claim in the suit has been decided. The only remaining claim alleges that GS Cleantech inequitably conducted itself before the United States Patent Office when obtaining the patents at issue.
A trial in the District Court for the Southern District of Indiana was conducted last month on that single issue as well as whether GS Cleantechs behavior during prosecution of the patents renders this an exceptional case. The Company is awaiting the courts decision. If the Defendants, including Pacific Ethanol, Inc., PE Stockton and PE Magic Valley, succeed in proving inequitable conduct, and that GS Cleantechs behavior makes this an exceptional case such a finding would allow the Court to award to Pacific Ethanol, Inc., PE Stockton and PE Magic Valley the attorneys fees expended to date for defense in this case. It is unknown whether GS Cleantech would appeal such a ruling. The Company did not record a provision for these matters as of June 30, 2015 as Company management intends to vigorously defend these allegations and believes a material adverse ruling against Pacific Ethanol, Inc., PE Stockton and/or PE Magic Valley is not probable. The Company believes that any liability Pacific Ethanol, Inc., PE Stockton and/or PE Magic Valley may incur would not have a material adverse effect on the Companys financial condition or its results of operations.
The Company has evaluated the above cases as well as other pending cases. The Company currently has recognized $3.3 million as a litigation contingency liability with respect to these cases for amounts that were probable and estimable.
The entire disclosure for commitments and contingencies.
Reference 1: http://www.xbrl.org/2003/role/presentationRef