Solyndra Employees Tell of Questionable Moves

Thursday, 22 Sep 2011 10:59 AM

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Although the collapse of Solyndra seems to have mystified an Obama administration intent on sending the solar company a half-billion dollars in government backed loans, the company’s employees were well aware that things were not going well. They tell of piles of unsold inventory, purchases of unneeded high-end equipment, and money quickly spent, The Washington Post reported.

The Solyndra case has propelled accusations of cronyism in the administration, and employees say that management’s questionable spending began almost as soon as the $535 million government-back loan was approved. A $344 million factory was built that included glass walls that could turn opaque with the flip of a switch and state-of-the-art equipment that was never removed from its plastic wrap and later sold for pennies on the dollar. Employees also said that they noticed inventory beginning to stack up in 2010, the Post reported.

“After we got the loan guarantee, they were just spending money left and right,” former Solyndra engineer Lindsey Eastburn told the Post. “Because we were doing well, nobody cared. Because of that infusion of money, it made people sloppy.”

The company also developed an appetite for federal money, hiring a former Senate staffer to ramp up Washington lobbying efforts. The Post reported that within a week of getting an Energy Department loan guarantee, they applied for another $400 million. That loan was not approved.

Solyndra spent more than $1 million on lobbying since 2008. The company spent $160,000 a year in 2008 and 2009. However, as their financial troubles grew, so did their lobbying. By 2010, the company’s lobbying expenses had grown to $550,000, and this year’s numbers are already at $220,000, the Post reported.

Solyndra is now under federal investigation, with both the House and the Justice Department looking into the matter. Company CEO Brian Harrison and CFO Bill Stover were to testify before a House committee but have decided to avail themselves of their Fifth Amendment rights. The investigations are probing whether the company misled the government about their financial state and the role of White House officials in pushing for the federal loans for the company promoted by President Barack Obama, the Post reported.

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