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Entries in Congressional Hearing (3)

Wednesday
Sep212011

Solyndra Told Congress It Was 'On Track' for Success

David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Less than three months before declaring bankruptcy, the federally-backed solar power company Solyndra sent a memo to Congress describing the company as "ramping" up its production, "competitive" with foreign rivals, and "on track" to hit its financial targets for the year.

The document obtained by ABC News and entitled "Exceeding Expectations: Solyndra Today," now appears to have grossly distorted the company's actual financial standing at a time when congressional investigators were already asking tough questions about the $535 million in federal backing Solyndra had received.

Since Solyndra sent the document to Congress on June 23, followed by a mid-July letter making more claims about its financial strength, the company has laid off nearly its entire workforce, has declared bankruptcy, and has been raided by the FBI.

The promises to the House Energy and Commerce Committee's investigative subcommittee arrived this summer, after the subcommittee's investigation into the massive federal loan to Solyndra had already been underway for months. 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.

The June memo and July letter both appeared to be efforts to counter claims that the company was in financial trouble, saying they were providing "the most accurate and up-to-date information."

The letter, signed by Solyndra CEO Brian Harrison, said, among other things, that the company had just completed a "record quarter for shipments," and that it was using "American innovation and ingenuity to compete on the global solar market." Later, Solyndra would blame competition from China for its downfall. Solyndra declared bankruptcy on Aug. 31.

Congressional investigators have also released a copy of a Sept. 10, 2011, email from an attorney for Solyndra to staff of the House Energy and Commerce Committee stating that the company's CEO "will appear voluntarily and answer the Committee's questions on any day the Committee chooses."

Just days later, an attorney for Harrison, the Solyndra CEO, wrote back to say his client would not answer any questions from the committee, and planned to invoke his Fifth Amendment rights when he appears before the committee Friday.

The loan Solyndra received had been shelved by the Bush administration but was fast-tracked just days after President Obama took office, and one of the major investors in the company is an Obama fundraiser -- Oklahoma billionaire George Kaiser -- who has visited the White House 16 times, including four meetings with such senior aides as Valerie Jarrett, Austan Goolsbee and Pete Rouse in the months prior to the loan's approval.

The White House has maintained that those meetings covered other topics -- including Kaiser's charitable work. And both the White House and the Department of Energy have been steadfast in their position that politics played no role in the decision to grant Solyndra the loan.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Sep202011

Solyndra Execs Will Take the Fifth Before Congress

Ken James/Bloomberg via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Two top executives from the embattled company Solyndra will appear before Congress later this week, but their lawyers announced Tuesday that they will invoke their Fifth Amendment rights and decline to answer questions.

"This is not a decision arrived at lightly, but it is a decision dictated by current circumstances," wrote Walter F. Brown Jr., the lawyer for Solyndra CEO Brian Harrison, in a letter to Congress.

Among those circumstances, the lawyer said, is a broadening investigation by the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice into the Obama administration's decision to loan $535 million to the California solar power company, and the abrupt financial ruin of the firm, which shut its doors late last month.

"It would be irresponsible for anyone in his position not to [take the Fifth]," wrote Jan Nielsen Little, the lawyer for Solyndra's chief financial officer, W.G. Stover, Jr., in a separate letter.

In a statement, a Solyndra spokesperson said Harrison and Stover would be "unable to provide substantive answers to the Subcommittee's questions," and said that "present circumstances require both gentlemen to exercise their Fifth Amendment rights."

The statement added that Solyndra is unaware of any wrongdoing by company officials related to the loan guarantee "or otherwise," and is cooperating with federal investigators. "The company believes that the record will establish that Solyndra carefully followed the rules of the competitive application process, starting in December 2006 under the Bush administration and continuing under the Obama administration."

Members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has been conducting its own investigation into the loan, expressed outrage that the executives -- after promising to freely answer questions -- would now insist on remaining silent.

"Who exactly are Solyndra's executives trying to protect and what are they trying to hide?" said a statement released by Energy Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R.-Mich., and Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., who chairs the oversight and investigations subcommittee.

"We have many questions for Solyndra's executives on their dealings with the Obama administration, their efforts to secure federal support for a project that appeared doomed from the outset, and why they made certain representations to Congress regarding their dire financial situation just two months ago," the statement said.

Friday's hearing was intended to be the second act to hearings held last week, during which a senior Energy Department official and a top White House budget analyst attempted to explain why they decided to grant the loan to Solyndra, and why they agreed to restructure the loan after it became increasingly clear the firm was in dire financial trouble.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Nov112010

Consumer Watchdog Calls for Google CEO Schmidt to Go to Washington Under Oath in Wi-Spy Hearing

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(SANTA MONICA, Calif.) -- After a ranking Google employee gave contradictory testimony at hearings regarding the Internet company's Wi-Spying, Consumer Watchdog Thursday asked the House Energy and Commerce Committee to put a hold on the proceedings.

Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog, sent a letter to Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, saying that a Congressional hearing was necessary even though the Federal Communications Commission is investigating.

"CEO Eric Schmidt and Alma Whitten, director of privacy for engineering and product management, should testify under oath to provide the American public with the answers it deserves," Court wrote.

Court complained that Google had developed a pattern of "changing its story" when explaining why it gathered private information from wireless networks.

Consumer Watchdog has made it a goal to convince Google, the Internet's leading company, of the importance of "giving consumers control over their online lives."  The public interest group hopes that eventually, the Internet giant will adopt privacy policies that could set the standard for the industry.

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