- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Attorneys for solar-panel maker Solyndra LLC say they’ve reduced by more than $100,000 the amount of bonus money they want to pay a handful of current employees still working for the bankrupt company.

But fired employees still oppose the plan, which is up for a hearing Wednesday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware. They say there’s no reason to provide extra cash to workers at a time when Solyndra is being sold off part by part.

Solyndra attorneys say they need the bonuses to keep current employees from leaving for other jobs. Otherwise, they say the company would have to pay out even more money for expensive consultants. The company has fewer than 100 employees, down from 1,100 before it went bankrupt.

The maximum to be paid out under the bonus plan is now $368,500, down from $500,000 in the incentive payments first requested. The proposed bonuses have drawn sharp criticism from several Republican members of Congress.

Rep. H. Morgan Griffith, Virginia Republican and a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has been investigating Solyndra’s collapse, was among dozens of Republican lawmakers to send a letter to the White House asking that the administration oppose the bonus plan.

“Personally, I agree with them 100 percent on the bonuses and I don’t understand why the Department of Justice didn’t get in there and oppose the bonuses,” Mr. Griffith said in an interview Tuesday.

Solyndra filed for bankruptcy last fall two years after the company won more than a half-billion dollars in federal loan guarantees from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

While the Justice Department, which represents the Energy Department as a creditor, made no objection to the bonus plan, the department did file a motion recently backing Solyndra in a separate dispute between the company and fired employees.

Solyndra attorneys made no mention of members of Congress in unveiling their downsized bonus plan in a recent court filing. The revised bonus plan came about after negotiations with a creditors committee, according to the filing.

The eligible employees do not participate in Solyndra’s management but include “engineers, technicians, specialists, administrators and in-house accounting personnel,” Solyndra attorneys said.

Under the previous bonus plan, one employee was eligible for up to $50,000 in extra cash, but now the maximum bonus payout is $30,000. The names of the employees were not included in bankruptcy filings.

In opposing the bonuses, attorneys for fired employees filed a motion in which they asked a host of questions about the cash payouts.

“What specific tasks are the bonus winners being incentivized to do? How does payment of a bonus directly translate into a measurable benefit for unsecured creditors? For senior managers already making six figure salaries, why is any bonus necessary as additional motivation?” the fired employees’ attorneys asked.

In their initiation request for bonuses, Solyndra attorneys had said the bonuses would “motivate the eligible employees to work as hard as possible”.