A Treasury spokesman declined to discuss the matter Thursday, citing rules prohibiting public comment in the middle of a sensitive investigation.
Richard Delmar, Thorson’s spokesman, said the office could not confirm which or how many companies are under investigation beyond SolarCity, which has disclosed the information.
“(W)e can generally say that we are carrying out our Inspector General Act-mandated duties to monitor the process by which public funds are distributed, to be sure that they are granted properly and used properly, consistent with applicable law and intended use,” Delmar said. “The 1603 program is a high-impact and high-visibility program involving a significant amount of public funds. Thus it has a high priority in our audit and investigative plans.”
Thorson’s office is working with the Justice Department’s Civil Division in the investigation, looking at “possible misrepresentations” by the firms about costs, according to a SolarCity corporate filing. In preparation for its public stock offering this month, Solar
City disclosed in October that it had received a subpoena from the inspector general’s office in July.
Sungevity’s and SunRun’s role in the inquiry has not been previously reported.
The three solar companies have found financial partners in such major household names such as Google, U.S. Bancorp, Credit Suisse and Citigroup. There is no suggestion that these financial partners engaged in any improprieties. But SolarCity notified investors in a security filing that the IRS is auditing two of the 23 investment funds it created with partner firms to finance its work. SolarCity did not name the partners in the funds but said the audits are focused on whether project costs are based on fair market values.
SolarCity and SunRun have been generous political supporters of Obama. At SolarCity, for example, officials in the company and its two key venture capital firm backers, along with their relatives, donated an estimated $579,000 to Obama in 2008 and 2012, according to campaign reports.
On Tuesday, SolarCity postponed its scheduled public offering as investors balked at the proposed $13 share price. On Wednesday, SolarCity slashed its stock price to $8 and began trading Thursday.
In a securities filing related to the stock offering, the company reported that the Treasury had notified SolarCity it was reducing the rate at which it would be reimbursed for some solar installations and might reduce others. The company said it may have to repay the government and its investors.
The Treasury said that in some California projects, the price
SolarCity could claim would fall by 12 percent, and in some Arizona projects, it would fall by 24 percent, the company reported.
The Treasury’s 1603 program has been lauded as a major boon for creating clean energy power.
As of July, the Treasury estimated it had provided $13 billion in government cash grants to help fund 45,172 energy projects.
Alice Crites contributed to this report.