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Chrysler returns $5.5 million bonds to Ind. county

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Chrysler has returned $5.5 million in bonds to an Indiana county to settle a dispute over millions of dollars the county spent toward a transmission plant that a Chrysler supplier stopped building last year.

The Indiana secretary of state’s office said Wednesday that it agreed to drop a securities fraud complaint against the automaker now known as Old Carco LLC as part of a consent agreement accepted Oct. 22 by a federal bankruptcy court in New York.

The bonds backed by Tipton County were used to pay for infrastructure at the Getrag Transmission Manufacturing site along U.S. 31 near Tipton.

Getrag, a German auto parts maker, halted construction on the 900,000-square-foot plant in October 2008 after Chrysler pulled out of a financing agreement for the $530 million plant, which was designed to produce energy-saving dual-clutch transmissions for Chrysler.

The plant about 35 miles north of Indianapolis was expected to create up to 1,400 jobs.

Getrag filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection for the plant, which is about 80 percent complete, in late November 2008.

In April, the secretary of state’s office accused Chrysler of committing securities fraud by failing to inform county officials that its agreement with Getrag was in jeopardy. The state has agreed to dismiss that complaint.

Chrysler spokesman Michael Palese said the company has repaid the $5.5 million in bonds as specified by the agreement. He said Chrysler agreed to the settlement with Indiana because it wanted “to assist in the development of the properties for the benefit of the region.”

Tipton County Commissioner Jane Harper said the county has dropped its request that Chrysler also return $4.2 million for other bonds and $300,000 in county economic development funds related to the project because it was highly unlikely that money could be recovered.

She said that in March, before Chrysler entered bankruptcy, the automaker had offered to pay back the $5.5 million in bonds as well as the other $4.5 million.

But when Chrysler filed for bankruptcy protection in April, she said it became unrealistic for the county to continue to pursue the $4.5 million, which were deemed third-party costs.

“Idealistically we would love to have it all back. We do believe we’re owed that,” she said. “But with the way that bankruptcy things go, you take what you can get.”

Harper said the county now hopes to use the $5.5 million in returned bond money and another $5.5 million in bonds the county recovered earlier from Getrag to offer $11 million in bonding to a company that manufacturers parts for the solar power industry that’s interested in moving into the empty building.

“I’m pleased that by holding Chrysler accountable to the terms of this agreement we will be facilitating Tipton County’s recovery of these bonds, and that the county can finally move forward with efforts to ensure this commercial property fulfills its promise,” said Secretary of State Todd Rokita.

© 2009 Associated Press. Displayed by permission. All rights reserved.

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