Solyndra lied to get loan guarantee, investigators say

Solyndra lied to get loan guarantee, investigators say
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Officials at solar power technology company Solyndra Inc. repeatedly gave false or misleading information to the Department of Energy (DOE) to get the loan guarantee that resulted in widespread condemnation of the Obama administration, an investigation found.

The report released Wednesday is most in-depth probe into the Solyndra scandal, which became a popular talking point to criticize President Obama’s green policies when the company went belly-up in 2011, just in time for the 2012 presidential election.

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The DOE’s Office of Inspector General said that Solyndra leaders engaged in a “pattern of false and misleading assertions and statements” both to government employees considering and monitoring its $535 million loan guarantee and to Congress.

The 13-page report outlines the results of a joint investigation the office completed with the FBI.

“Solyndra provided the Department with statements, assertions, and certifications that were inaccurate and misleading, misrepresented known facts, and, in some instances, omitted information that was highly relevant to key decisions in the process to award and execute the $535 million loan guarantee,” investigators wrote in their report.

“In our view, the investigative record suggests that the actions of certain Solyndra officials were, at best, reckless and irresponsible or, at worst, an orchestrated effort to knowingly and intentionally deceive and mislead the department,” they said.

The deceptions included an overstated 2009 report from the company claiming to have $2.2 billion in firm contracts for solar panel sales.

Despite the findings, the Department of Justice has decided not to pursue criminal charges against anyone involved in the bankrupt company.

But investigators said the DOE shared in some blame for providing a major incentive to a company that was not stable.

Specifically, Solyndra repeatedly provided the DOE with information that, “had it been considered more closely, would have cast doubt on the accuracy of certain of Solyndra’s prior representations.”

The loan guarantee program had existed since Congress first authorized it in 2005. The 2009 stimulus law ramped it up significantly and increased a focus on renewable energy.

Employees told investigators that they felt under pressure from higher-ups and the Obama administration to approve loans, which may have contributed to the oversights.

A DOE spokesman said it has learned from the Solyndra controversy and made necessary changes.

“Following the Solyndra bankruptcy in 2011, the Department’s Loan Programs Office (LPO) has made a number of improvements to how it selects and monitors loans and loan guarantees,” the spokesman said in a statement.

“These include changes to its due diligence and underwriting process, credit policies, and loan monitoring.”

— This story was updated at 10:25 a.m.