Solyndra execs won't answer questions during hearing [Updated]
Solyndra Inc.'s chief executive and chief financial officer will invoke their 5th Amendment rights and not answer questions during a Friday hearing before a House investigative committee, their attorneys said.
Attorneys for Solyndra CEO Brian Harrison and W.G. “Bill” Stover, the company’s chief financial officer, sent letters to the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s investigative subcommittee Tuesday saying the two executives would not answer any questions during the hearing.
“I have advised Mr. Harrison that he should decline to answer questions put to him by this subcommittee based on his rights under the Fifth Amendment,” Harrison’s attorney, Walter F. Brown Jr., said in a letter to Rep. Clifford B. Stearns (R-Fla.), the committee’s chairman, and Rep. Diane DeGette (D-Colo.).
“This is not a decision arrived at lightly, but it is a decision dictated by current circumstances,” Brown said in the letter.
Agents with the FBI and Energy Department’s inspector general executed a search warrant at Solyndra’s Fremont headquarters on Sept. 8, two days after the company declared bankruptcy despite receiving $528 million in federal loans. The FBI and Energy Department have declined to say what prompted the investigation or who it is targeting.
Stover's attorney, Jan Nielsen Little, said in a letter to the committee that the criminal investigations prompted the decision for Stover to decline to testify. Stover still intends to appear at the hearing, Little said.
"Under these circumstances, Mr. Stover must invoke his rights under the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution," Little wrote. "It would be irresponsible for anyone in his position not to do so."
Solyndra was the first recipient of Energy Department loans under the Obama administration intended to spur economic growth and create jobs through investments in green technology. To date it is the only Energy Department loan recipient to cease operations.
[Updated at 2:37 p.m. Solyndra released a statement that acknowledged the executives' plans to take the Fifth, but said the company "is not aware of any wrongdoing by Solyndra officers, directors or employees in conjunction with the DOE loan guarantee or otherwise, and the company is cooperating fully with the office of the United States Attorney for the Northern District of California in its investigation." The company also said it "believes that the record will establish that Solyndra carefully followed the rules of the competitive application process, starting in December 2006 under the Bush administration and continuing under the Obama administration."]
[Updated at 4:09 p.m. Stearns and Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, released a joint statement criticizing the executives for choosing not to answer their questions. "Who exactly are Solyndra's executives trying to protect and what are they trying to hide?" the statement said. The Solyndra executives will still be asked to attend the meeting and will be sworn as witnesses, despite the announcement that they won't answer questions, the statement said. "We would encourage Mr. Harrison and Mr. Stover to reconsider this effort to dodge questions under oath and hide the truth from those American taxpayers who are now on the hook for their $500 million bust," Stearns and Upton said.]
-- Stuart Pfeifer
Photo: FBI agents leave Solyndra with boxes of records during a Sept. 8 search. Credit: Associated Press