(ABC News) — Officials from the Department of Energy have for months been sitting in on board meetings as “observers” at Solyndra, getting an up-close view as the solar energy company careened towards bankruptcy after spending more than $500 million in federal loan money.
Word of the Energy Department’s unusual arrangement came as federal agents on Thursday converged on the California headquarters of the failed solar company, focusing fresh attention on the first corporate beneficiary of President Obama’s stimulus program to create new clean energy jobs.
The company, which closed its doors last week and laid off 1,100 workers, has been a subject of an ongoing series of stories by the Center for Public Integrity’s iWatch News in collaboration with ABC News.
“The FBI is here this morning executing a search warrant,” Solyndra spokesman David Miller said Thursday. “We’ll cooperate with them and given them whatever they are looking for, but certainly it was a surprise,” Miller said. “I came to work this morning and they were here and I’ve been sorting it out.”
The early morning search was a joint operation involving the FBI and the Energy Department’s inspector general, indicating the focus of the investigation, at least in part, is a $535 million government loan to the solar company. One of the company’s primary investors was a top fundraiser for Obama’s 2008 campaign.
Questions about the loan have been simmering for months. In 2009, the Energy Department put Solyndra’s application on a fast-track for approval, and announced the award with great fanfare. The generous terms of the government loan included the lowest interest of all the green projects benefitting from Energy Department help, iWatch News and ABC News found.