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Thursday
Oct132011

Solyndra CEO Brian Harrison Resigns

Ken James/Bloomberg via Getty Images(FREMONT, Calif.) -- The CEO of Solyndra, a California-based solar energy company that received a controversial $535 million loan guarantee from the Obama administration, has resigned.

In papers filed with a bankruptcy court Wednesday, Solyndra said that Brian Harrison had left his post on Friday, Oct. 7, "as contemplated even before these cases were commenced." Solyndra shut its doors and declared bankruptcy six weeks ago.

Solyndra filed the papers in a Delaware court in response to a motion by the Department of Justice to appoint a trustee to oversee the company's bankruptcy case. The Justice Department filed its motion after Harrison and Solyndra's CFO, W.G. Stover invoked the Fifth Amendment and refused to answer questions from a Congressional committee probing the Solyndra loan during a Sept. 23 hearing. The company is also under investigation by the Justice Department, the Treasury Department and the Department of Energy's Inspector General.

The Obama administration had selected Solyndra as the first to receive a loan under an Energy Department program designed to provide government support to companies that would create jobs while generating energy from cleaner sources, such as solar, wind and nuclear. President Obama personally visited the Solyndra complex, hailing it as a leader in the field.

In August, Solyndra abruptly shut its doors, laying off 1,100 workers. Within days, it had declared bankruptcy. The House Energy and Commerce Committee's investigative subcommittee has held two hearings intending to unwind the deal and understand how signs of Solyndra's financial trouble had been overlooked by the Department of Energy.

A week after Solyndra's bankruptcy filing, federal agents searched the company's California headquarters, and visited the homes of Harrison, company founder Chris Gronet and a former executive.

Solyndra spokesman David Miller confirmed agents visited Harrison's home on the same day the FBI and Energy Department Inspector General seized boxes of records from the company's headquarters.

"Yeah, they did go to his house and speak to him briefly," Miller said. "I don't know what they may have taken. I believe they took a look at his computer."

Julie Sohn, a spokeswoman with the FBI in San Francisco, declined to discuss details of the government's investigation. "Unfortunately, our affidavits are still sealed so we can't go into any details," Sohn said.

In March, ABC News, in partnership with the Center for Public Integrity's iWatch News, began reporting on simmering questions about the role political influence may have played in Solyndra's selection as the Obama administration's first loan guarantee recipient.

Damien LaVera, an Energy Department spokesman, has told ABC News that politics never entered the decision to grant the loan, or restructure it earlier this year. LaVera said the department decided it was worth trying to redo the terms to try to salvage the government's initial investment.

"[P]olitical or optical considerations took a backseat to putting the company and its workers in a better position to succeed and repay the loan," he said.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee has sought information from Solyndra's prime investors -- including Oklahoma oil billionaire George Kaiser, a bundler of campaign contributions to the president in 2008.

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