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Solyndra Chiefs Won’t Answer U.S. House Queries on Federal Aid

Solyndra Inc. CEO Brian Harrison
Brian Harrison, chief executive officer of Solyndra Inc. Photographer: Jonathan Alcorn/Bloomberg

Solyndra LLC’s top executives will invoke their right against self-incrimination when they appear before a House committee investigating the failure of the solar-panel manufacturer backed by the Obama administration.

Chief Executive Officer Brian Harrison and Chief Financial Officer W.A. Stover Jr. will decline to answer questions from the House Energy and Commerce Committee investigating panel at a Sept. 23 hearing, lawyers for both men said yesterday.

“Mr. Harrison intends to invoke his Fifth Amendment rights in response to any questions asked by this subcommittee and will not provide testimony,” Walter Brown, a lawyer at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP in San Francisco representing Harrison, wrote to the panel.

Solyndra issued a statement yesterday that said Harrison and Stover wouldn’t provide “substantive answers” to questions from the committee.

Letters from the lawyers cited the Sept. 8 FBI raid on Solyndra’s Fremont, California, offices and a Justice Department investigation into the company, which got about $527 million in U.S. loan guarantees from President Barack Obama’s administration. The company sought bankruptcy protection two days before the raid by Federal Bureau of Investigation agents.

“Mr. Harrison regrets that these circumstances prevent him from offering full and complete answers to this subcommittee,” Brown wrote to Representatives Cliff Stearns, a Florida Republican and chairman of the Energy committee’s investigation panel, and Diana DeGette of Colorado, the panel’s top Democrat.

‘Competitive Landscape’

The company said the “competitive landscape” for photovoltaic panels changed, resulting in an oversupply of panels worldwide and limiting Solyndra’s ability to boost sales. All money from the U.S. was used to build a manufacturing plant, according to the statement.

“The company is not aware of any wrongdoing by Solyndra officers, directors or employees” related to the Energy Department loan guarantees or other actions “and the company is cooperating fully” with the U.S. Attorney in San Francisco, according to the statement.

“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,” according to the company’s statement.

Jan Nielsen Little, an attorney at Keker & Van Nest LLP in San Francisco representing Stover, said in a letter, “it would be irresponsible for anyone in his position” to testify before the House committee given the federal investigation.

Republican Report

Stearns said last week his panel let Harrison and Stover skip testifying at a Sept. 14 subcommittee hearing in hopes they would waive their rights against self-incrimination.

Energy committee Republicans released a report on Solyndra Sept. 14 that said aides to Obama pressed loan officials to accelerate their review in time to let U.S. officials announce the deal.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee also will investigate Solyndra in a larger probe of all U.S. loan guarantee and business-support programs, Representative Darrell Issa, a California Republican and committee chairman, said yesterday during a C-SPAN interview.

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