Solyndra executives changed their mind after telling congressional investigators last week that they would answer any questions they had. They now say that they will exercise their Fifth Amendment rights to not testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee this Friday.
Solyndra executives were originally scheduled to appear before the committee on Sept. 14. After their offices and their CEO's home was raided by the FBI on Sept. 8, however, they asked that the hearing be rescheduled, promising that they would testify fully if given more time to deal with the FBI investigation.
In addition to the FBI, Solyndra is currently under investigation by the Justice Department, the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the House Judiciary Committee for loan guarantees, totaling a little over half a billion dollars, it received from the federal government before going bankrupt recently.
As part of the investigation, the House Energy and Commerce Committee has been looking into emails between the White House and the Office of Management and Budget to determine whether the administration pushed for a quick approval of the loan guarantees despite evidence that the company would not be financially sustainable.
“It’s disappointing that the officials who canvassed the halls of Congress in mid-July and misled our members about the financial state of their company are now unwilling to answer direct questions, but any effort to cover up the truth will ultimately not succeed,” House Energy and Commerce Chair Fred Upton (R-Mich.) wrote in statement with Congressman Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), who is also on the committee and chairs the subcommittee in charge of the investigation.
The Judiciary Committee is also investigating whether Solyndra was improperly given special treatment by the White House due to its relationship with Solyndra investor George Kaiser. Kaiser was an Obama fund-raiser and has visited the White House several times.
In an unusual move, officials in the executive branch restructured the terms of Solyndra's loans so that investors, such as Kaiser, would be given precedence over the federal government in bankruptcy proceedings. In addition to providing further support that Solyndra was given favorable treatment because of President Obama's relationship with one of its principle investors, the loan restructuring may have also been illegal. The Judiciary Committee will also investigate this question.
Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder this week asking him to appoint a special examiner to investigate Solyndra's bankruptcy. Smith wants to know why the loan was restructured and why the last loan, for $67 million, was approved in February 2011, even though there were clear signals that the company was in trouble at that point.
“An independent examiner will get to the truth of whether politics played a role in influencing the Obama administration to favor Solyndra over more financially stable loan applicats,” Smith wrote.
Solyndra, headquartered in Fremont, Calif., designs and manufactures solar photovoltaic systems for the commercial rooftop market.