Lafayette businessman Michel Moreno, who became very rich when he sold his oilfield fabrication company in 2007, is now fending off attempts by creditors who claim he used companies he controls to siphon cash out of another company he owned, a hydraulic fracturing venture that failed spectacularly in 2013.
Creditors who are owed hundreds of millions of dollars by Green Field Energy Services, which Moreno started in 2011 after he bought the decades-old, Lafayette-based Hub City Enterprises, are suing Moreno and at least 13 companies he is affiliated with. Green Field filed for U.S. bankruptcy protection two years ago and is now in liquidation proceedings in Delaware.
Alan Halperin, the trustee for the Green Field liquidation trust, said in a federal lawsuit filed in April that Moreno and a “web of affiliated companies under his control engaged in a concerted campaign to strip Green Field of its most valuable assets and walk away” from obligations he made to adequately fund the company.
Green Field used turbine engines from surplus military helicopters in hydraulic fracturing operations in Texas, where the company’s primary customer was a subsidiary of Shell. Green Field lost massive amounts of money. According to Bloomberg, in the second quarter of 2013 alone Greenfield lost almost $30 million on revenue of $77 million. According to documents, when it filed for bankruptcy later in 2013, Green Field owed almost $100 million to its subcontractors and other vendors and over $300 millions in loans.
Halperin said Greenfield borrowed heavily before it was robbed of its assets.
“In early 2011, seeing an opportunity to make a massive debt-fueled bet on certain speculative fracking technologies with other people’s money, Moreno acquired a controlling interest … and became CEO” in Green Field, the lawsuit alleges.
“Causing (Green Field) to increase its capital expenditures more than 50-fold from the previous year — funded by large incurrences of new debt — Moreno plunged into battle against formidable, established competition, tying the fate of its business largely to the success of its speculative fracking technologies,” Halperin alleges in the suit, which targeted Moreno and 13 companies he’s associated with.
“As (Green Field) then headed toward collapse, Moreno and (the companies he controlled) continued to seize millions in payments from Green Field under terms and conditions that were anything but arms-length,” according to the suit.
Phone messages left this past week with Halperin and attorneys representing Moreno seeking comment were not returned.
Moreno and his attorneys this month sought to have the case dismissed and said in an 80-page motion that Green Field’s failure was partly due to marketplace realities.
“Unfortunately, the natural gas market trends unexpectedly reversed in 2012,” Moreno’s attorneys wrote. “In or around late 2012 or the beginning of 2013, Shell unexpectedly sold significant portions of its onshore natural gas development in North America, including in Eagle Ford Shale (in Texas), and in 2013 terminated its contract with (Green Field),” which was “left in the precarious position in need of capital and revenue streams.”
Moreno, who is in his mid- to late-40s, is a Cuban-American who grew up in Morgan City and earned an MBA at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. His failure with Green Field came after a huge success with Dynamic Industries, which grew from a mid-sized welding shop he bought in 1998 to an international fabricator with facilities along the Gulf Coast and in Angola and Venezuela.
Moreno sold half of Dynamic’s parent company in 2007 for $311 million to a New York City private equity firm, according to state court documents filed in a separate matter. It’s unclear what ownership, if any, Moreno has in Dynamic now. In 2012, he resigned as Dynamic’s CEO, a company newsletter states.
Halperin, the trustee for the Green Field creditors, also claims Moreno used his position to “denude” the company from a business opportunity in mobile electricity generation, which producers use at remote drill sites. Halperin put a price of $200 million on Green Field’s lost business opportunity, which would have employed the helicopter turbine motors as generators.
Moreno’s attorneys, in the motion to dismiss the case, said Green Field was never in the power generation business. They also said that a budding partnership was starting to form between General Electric subsidiary — GE Oil & Gas — and another Moreno-affiliated company, Turbine Generation Services, to provide well-site electricity fueled by natural gas from a wellhead.
“GE made clear to Moreno that it was not interested in joining Green Field’s existing fracking services and would only invest in the power generation … and related technology in a business separate from Green Field,” the attorneys wrote.
The partnership between GE and Moreno, which began in 2012, soured in 2014 when GE filed a suit in Lafayette federal court seeking the return of $25 million it said it loaned Moreno for Turbine Generation Services. Moreno countersued GE in federal court, claiming the money was not a loan but money to buy equity in the company. Moreno in May filed a lawsuit against GE in 15th District Court in Lafayette.
All four court proceedings — the bankruptcy, Halperin’s suit on behalf of creditors and the GE lawsuits — are ongoing.