Feds Visit Homes of Solyndra CEO, Execs
Solyndra CEO painted rosy picture in weeks before collapse.
Sept. 9, 2011 — -- This story has been updated.
Federal agents have expanded their examination of the now-bankrupt California solar power company Solyndra, visiting the homes of the company's CEO and two of its executives, examining computer files and documents, iWatch News and ABC News have learned.
Agents visited the homes of CEO Brian Harrison and company founder Chris Gronet and a former executive, according to a source who agreed to speak only on the condition of anonymity because of the legal sensitivity of the situation.
Gronet, reached at his home Friday morning, did not dispute that his home was visited by federal agents a day earlier.
"I'm sorry," Gronet said, "you probably understand full well that I cannot comment." The third executive could not be immediately reached.
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.
The raid and visits come amid increasing evidence the Justice Department and Inspector General are exploring whether Solyndra mislead the government in securing its $535 million loan in 2009 -- and landing a vital refinancing of that loan earlier this year. Beginning in March, ABC News, in partnership with iWatch News/the Center for Public Integrity, was first to report on simmering questions about the role political influence may have played Solyndra's selection as the Obama administration's first loan guarantee recipient. One of the lead private investors in Solyndra was an Oklahoma billionaire who served as an Obama "bundler," raising money during the 2008 presidential campaign.
Members of Congress leading a House investigation of the DOE loan have focused specifically on visits Solyndra CEO Harrison made to Washington in July, when he said the company was on sound footing and expanding.
Less than two months after that visit, Solyndra fired 1,100 workers and filed for bankruptcy – a stinging collapse for the Obama administration, which made the Solyndra loan a showpiece as its first investment in green energy technology.
The Energy Department was keeping a close eye on Solyndra during those crucial months – sitting in on board meetings as an observer as part of the loan restructuring, iWatch News and ABC reported Thursday. That raises key questions: Did DOE miss obvious warning signs of the company's troubles in the final months before its collapse?