A grand jury has been convened in what appears to be the next significant step of the federal criminal investigation into Solyndra, the politically-connected and now bankrupt solar firm that received a half-billion dollar loan guarantee from the government, according to court documents.
The role of the grand jury was revealed in documents filed in bankruptcy court last week by K&L Gates, a law firm retained by Solyndra reportedly just weeks after the FBI raided Solyndra's California headquarters in September. The documents give a daily account of K&L Gates' employees activities in reference to Solyndra and often refer to communications concerning a "grand jury subpoena".
The K&L Gates documents, first reported by The Washington Times, also show the attorneys had more than two dozen interactions with the U.S. Attorney's office and the FBI. The first mention of a "grand jury" came on Oct. 9.
The criminal investigation into the failed solar power company has become a political lightning rod as Republicans in Congress have suggested undue political influence affected the Obama administration's decision to award Solyndra a $535 million loan guarantee in 2009, despite early warning signs the company could be heading for trouble.
When called before a Congressional committee in September, former Solyndra executives invoked their Fifth Amendment rights and declined to answer any questions about the company's sudden collapse. The next month, the company's CEO, Brian Harrison, resigned.
ABC News and the Center for Public Integrity's iWatch News first reported on questions about the choice of Solyndra for the loan in March after the Department of Energy disclosed it was being forced to restructure its loan package for the company, which was showing early signs of financial distress. One of Solyndra's major investors was George Kaiser, an Oklahoma billionaire who raised between $50,000 and $100,000 for Obama during the 2008 election.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee also opened an investigation into the loan, which Republican House Energy and Commerce Committee members Rep. Cliff Stearns and Rep. Fred Upton said was "suspect from day one."
President Obama has maintained the Solyndra got the loan "on [its] merits."
"I have confidence decisions were made based upon what's good for the American people," Obama said in a press conference in October. "There were going to be some companies that did not work out. Solyndra was one of them."
Energy Secretary Steven Chu also denied he was influenced on Solyndra's behalf.
"I want to be clear," Chu told Congress in November. "Over the course of Solyndra's loan guarantee, I did not make any decision based on political considerations. My decision to guarantee a loan to Solyndra was based on the analysis of experienced professionals and on the strength of the information they had available to them at the time."
Officials at the U.S. Attorney's office declined to comment on for this report.
Jeffrey Bornstein, an attorney for K&L Gates often mentioned in the documents, told POLITICO, "Solyndra is continuing to cooperate with the United States Attorneys Office in connection with its investigation."