The Washington Times is reporting that FBI agents on Thursday executed search warrants at the headquarters of Solyndra LLC, which was awarded more than $500,000 in federal stimulus loans in 2009 to make solar panels in what the Obama administration called part of an aggressive effort to put more Americans to work and end U.S. dependence on foreign oil.
Solyndra is of interest locally as Argonaut Ventures, an investment arm of the Tulsa-based George Kaiser Family Foundation, holds almost 39 percent of Solyndra’s parent company, 360 Solar Degree Holdings, Inc. George Kaiser is chairman of BOK Financial Corp, owner of Kaiser-Francis Oil Company and other local enterprises. Argonaut is managed by Steve Mitchell who once and may still serve on Solyndra’s board of directors.
Oklahoma FBI Spokesman Clay Simmonds told Tulsa Today that to his knowledge, "the Oklahoma and Tulsa FBI offices have not been engaged in this investigation to date."
Solyndra filed a bankruptcy petition Tuesday in Delaware, asking a court to bar phone, electricity and water and sewer service providers from “altering, refusing or discontinuing service,” and now is the focus of an investigation by the FBI and the Energy Department’s Office of Inspector General.
California FBI spokesman Peter Lee said he could not provide details about the investigation.
A little more than a year ago, President Obama hailed Solyndra during a tour of the company, saying it expected to hire 1,000 workers and make enough panels over the lifetime of its planned expanded facility that it would be like replacing eight coal-fired power plants.
“It’s here that companies like Solyndra are leading the way toward a brighter and more prosperous future,” Mr. Obama said.
The company’s bankruptcy petition came two years after Energy Secretary Stephen Chu and Vice President Joseph R. Biden announced approval of $535 million in federal loans to Solyndra.
“This announcement today is part of the unprecedented investment this administration is making in renewable energy and exactly what the Recovery Act is all about,” Mr. Biden said.
Instead, Solyndra, which was launched in 2005, last week shed more than 900 full-time employees, leaving just a “core group” of 113 employees, according to bankruptcy records. The price for solar panels has dropped by more than 40 percent, in part because of heavy competition from Chinese companies.
Republicans have been looking into the Solyndra loan for several months and has subpoenaed documents concerning it from the White House Office of Management and Budget.
Rep. Cliff Stearns, Florida Republican and chairman of the subcommittee for oversight and investigations on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said last week the company’s collapse should raise concerns about the entire stimulus program.
“The administration celebrated Solyndra as the first recipient of its loan guarantee program and intended to showcase its success as representative of its stimulus program,” Mr. Stearns said. “This should be of great concern to all Americans considering the $1 trillion committed by the White House to its stimulus efforts.”
Mr. Stearns and Rep. Fred Upton, Michigan Republican and chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, sent a letter last week to the White House seeking information about the White House’s role in the loans to Solyndra.
In the letter, Mr. Stearns and Mr. Upton said they’ve learned from an investigation they had previously been conducting that Department of Energy officials, as well as officials from the Office of Management and Budget, were aware of White House interest in the Solyndra loan deal. In addition, they said they were aware that a major investor in Solyndra, George Kaiser, was a bundler for Mr. Obama’s campaign.
“Now with the collapse of Solyndra, we see 1,100 employees out of work and taxpayers out of $535 million, most likely,” Mr. Stearns said in a statement.
To read more, click here for The Washington Times story.