Democrats weigh in
Even a onetime defender of Obama’s clean-tech initiative criticized Solyndra on Thursday. Rep. Henry A. Waxman, (D-Calif.), along with Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), urged the two Republican committee leaders to hold Solyndra chief executive to account.
“Any thorough examination of the Solyndra loan guarantee should include the opportunity to ask Mr. Harrison about his representations,” the Democrats said in a statement. “He did not convey to us the perilous condition of the company, and the Committee should know why.”
House investigators have been examining whether the White House played a role in Solyndra ’s selection for the loan. Committee Republicans have said they found evidence that White House officials were monitoring Solyndra’s status in the application process. The Energy Department has asserted that it chose Solyndra through a competitive, non-political process.
A Government Accountability Office audit last year found that Solyndra was among a handful of companies that the agency awarded hundreds of millions in loan guarantees before completing required application reviews.
Energy Department officials confirmed Thursday that the agency was informed at the end of 2010 of Solyndra’s precarious finances. At the time, the department declined to provide additional taxpayer funds to Solyndra but agreed to help the company restructure its financing if investors put up more cash.
As part of a February deal, investors agreed to contribute an additional $75 million in new money, including Kaiser’s fund, and the Energy Department agreed that investors could get their new funding repaid first — before taxpayers — if the company defaulted on the federal loan.
“Ultimately, the choice was between imminent liquidation or giving the company and its workers a fighting chance to succeed,” Energy Department spokesman Damien LaVera said in a statement Thursday. “This restructuring gave Solyndra and its workers the best possible chance to succeed in a very competitive marketplace and put the company in a better position to repay the loan.”
In March, Energy Secretary Steven Chu said publicly that there was little chance Solyndra would default on the loan.
“We are confident they can repay the loan,” Chu told a trade publication, noting that the company’s sales had been going up and that it had obtained an additional $75 million line of credit.
This week, in bankruptcy proceedings in Delaware, Solyndra’s chief financial officer, W.B. “Bill” Stover Jr., explained how Solyndra worked furiously to raise cash in its final months — through a series of unusual business transactions.
A group of investors led by Argonaut Ventures, which is linked to Kaiser, agreed to buy up to $75 million worth of discounted solar panels and “existing and future accounts receivables” from Solyndra.
Last month, Solyndra investors and Energy Department officials discussed another possible financial restructuring to keep the company running. That plan fell through, leaving Solyndra “unable to continue operations,” Stover wrote.
Solyndra suspended operations the following day.
Staff researcher Lucy Shackelford contributed to this report.