Thursday, September 22, 2011

Solyndra I

Lawmakers probe Solyndra investors about loan

(Reuters) - Republican lawmakers investigating government loan guarantees to the green energy sector have turned their focus to key private investors in the failed Solyndra solar company, asking them for a huge raft of documents.
The U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce committee wants Argonaut Private Equity and Madrone Capitol to turn over documents related to Solyndra's $535 million federal loan guarantee, its canceled initial public offering and their communications with the Obama administration.
Republicans want to know more about how the company's debt was restructured earlier this year, "putting the venture capitalists at the front of the line, ahead of taxpayers, in the event of bankruptcy, which was in violation of the plain letter of the law," Energy Committee chairman Fred Upton said in a statement.
The lawmakers have been probing whether politics influenced government loans to Solyndra. Argonaut is backed by Obama fundraiser George Kaiser, while Madrone is affiliated with the Walton family which founded Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
In identical letters to the firms, the lawmakers asked for material by September 28. Democratic lawmakers on the committee have said they want the two firms to testify about the loans.
Solyndra was the first company to receive loan guarantee funding under the alternative energy loan program, but filed for bankruptcy last month, and is the target of an FBI investigation.
The Solyndra loan had been hailed by President Barack Obama and other top officials in the Democratic administration as a model of how the government could kick-start job growth in clean energy.
Republicans have uncovered e-mails showing concerns about the company's finances dating back before the loans were made.
Other e-mails suggested decisions may have been rushed to accommodate the schedules of administration officials who wanted to promote them.
The committee will hold a hearing on Friday with Solyndra executives, who have said through their attorneys that they will invoke their Fifth Amendment rights to avoid self-incrimination and will not answer questions.
(Reporting by JoAnne Allen and Roberta Rampton; Editing by Vicki Allen)

Email Shows Solyndra Violated Pledge to Answer Committee’s Questions

by Lachlan Markay

Solyndra executives scheduled to testify before a House committee on Friday were likely expecting some tough questions. In general, Republicans will wonder whether their political ties got them favorable treatment from the Energy Department. Democrats will want to know why the company said it was financially healthy mere weeks before it collapsed.
But the announcement by Solyndra’s chief executive and head financial officer that they will “plead the Fifth” and refuse to answer committee questions will spawn a whole new line of interrogation: what happened over the past week to get them renege on a commitment to be fully open with the committee?
In an email to committee staff dated September 10, an attorney for the company said that CEO Brian Harrison “will appear voluntarily and answer the Committee’s questions on any day the Committee chooses, beginning next week and continuing thereafter.” The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations has entered that letter into the record, suggesting that it will play a significant role in Friday’s hearing. Committee members will want to know what changed over the last week.
As Scribe reported yesterday, Subcommittee Chairman Cliff Stearns (R-FL) took them at their word; he agreed to postpone their appearance before the committee, and told the Heritage Foundation that they had agreed to cooperate. The letter from Solyndra’s counsel lends weight to that claim.
Also submitted in the record are two letters from Solyndra to Energy and Commerce over the summer that sought to assure members of the company’s financial health. One letter from Harrison, dated July 13, proclaims that Solyndra “is an example of a U.S. company using American innovation and ingenuity to compete in the global solar market.”
Six weeks after that letter was sent the company filed for bankruptcy.

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