Head of Embattled Energy Loan Program Steps Down


Silver Defends Solyndra Loan

For months, Silver had portrayed the Solyndra financing as a good bet for the public even as the company was falling apart financially behind the scenes.

In May, as iWatch News and ABC News investigated how the Energy Department took shortcuts in approving the loan in 20009, Silver came to the project's defense. He downplayed the company's financial troubles even as the Energy Department refinanced its loan this year to give Solyndra more time to pay off its debt. Silver was not with the department when the loan was issued in 2009, but was when it was refinanced.

"That was an effort on our part to ensure we had the tightest and best structured project," Silver said in the May 9 interview with iWatch News and ABC News.

In the interview, Silver placed little significance on the fact that Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced a conditional commitment for the $535 million financing in March 2009 before all outside due diligence was completed, saying all sign-offs came before it closed that September.

"I have never seen a company go straight up without a bump along the way," said Silver, a former venture capitalist. "I have no doubt they will continue to hire more people."

By late 2010, however, the Energy Department knew Solyndra faced a major cash flow crisis. As part of the government's loan restructuring, DOE earlier this year began sitting in on board meetings of the California solar panel firm -- getting an up-close view in the crucial months before its collapse, bankruptcy and raid by the FBI and Energy Department Inspector General.

Records show the due diligence shortcuts were one of a cascading series of warning flags the Energy Department ignored or bypassed in rushing to announce the Obama administration's first green energy loan guarantee.

President Obama said Thursday that his administration has loaned billions to start-up high tech firms like the now-bankrupt solar firm Solyndra based not on political influence, but "on the merits."

"I have confidence decisions were made based upon what's good for the American people," Obama said in a press conference Thursday in response to questions from ABC News senior White House correspondent Jake Tapper. "There were going to be some companies that did not work out. Solyndra was one of them."

"All I can say is the Department of Energy made these decisions based on their best judgments," Obama said, defending the decision to make Solyndra the country's first loan guarantee recipient.

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When Silver joined the Department in late 2009, he was touted for his venture capital experience -- a critical need for a department that had been tasked with handing out billions of dollars to start-up companies in the alternative energy space. Energy Department officials said that during his tenure, the loan programs he oversaw were supporting 38 projects that include the world's largest wind farm and several of the nation's largest photovoltaic solar generation facilities.

Energy officials said Silver is leaving to become a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Third Way, a Washington think tank.

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