September 9, 2011
By Chris Kramer
It was little more than a year ago that President Obama visited the headquarters of California solar panel manufacturer Solyndra to praise the federal government's investments in clean energy. Now, in less than a week, Solyndra has reportedly filed bankruptcy and become the target of an FBI investigation.
To the surprise of many, Solyndra announced last week that it was laying off 1,100 employees and ceasing operations. The company attributed its actions to foreign competition and an international surplus of solar panels.
Following the announcement, Solyndra filed bankruptcy Tuesday, despite having received $535 million in federal stimulus funds. On Thursday, the FBI and Department of Energy's Office of Inspector General executed a search warrant at the company's Freemont, Calif., headquarters.
The agencies have declined to discuss the investigation at this time, and FBI spokesman Peter D. Lee told the Los Angeles Times that documents related to the search are currently sealed.
Republicans are using Solyndra's downfall to exemplify what they consider to be the failure of President Obama's stimulus and "green jobs" campaign.
Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), chairman of its Oversight and Investigations subcommittee, highlighted the party’s feelings in a joint statement to the Los Angeles Times.
"The FBI raid further underscores that Solyndra was a bad bet from the beginning and put taxpayers at unnecessary risk," said the representatives. "President Obama's signature green jobs program went from a darling of the administration to bankruptcy to now the subject of an FBI raid in a matter of days."
Solyndra president and chief executive, Brian Harrison, allegedly told Rep. Stearns the company was "in strong financial position and in no danger of failing" in a letter written less than two months ago. At the time, he claimed the company would double its revenue in 2011.
Harrison has now been invited to testify in a hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee scheduled for next Wednesday. The committee has been investigating Solyndra since February, and scheduled the upcoming hearing before this week's raid and bankruptcy filing.
The Los Angeles Times reported that Reps. Harry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) and Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) have encouraged Harrison to testify at next week's hearing.
"Any thorough examination of the Solyndra loan guarantee should include the opportunity to ask Mr. Harrison about his representations," the representatives said. "He did not convey to us the perilous condition of the company and the committee should know why."