Bankrupt Solyndra seeking to pay bonuses

Court’s OK sought for ‘incentive plan’

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“You’re always going to have people you’ve got to keep and who would be hard to replace even in good times,” he said. “But they become irreplaceable because of the bankruptcy.

“If you have someone good, she’s going to have lots of opportunities, and see the ship is sinking, and understand that this is a less than ideal job market and be ready to take a job when it’s offered,” he said.

“In theory, [the incentive plan] makes sense,” he said, acknowledging that “abuses and mistakes” can happen.

Meanwhile, most other former employees, including several top former officials, have claims pending in the company’s bankruptcy case.

James Gibbons, a Stanford University professor who served on Solyndra’s board of directors, filed a claim for more than $140,000 last month in the bankruptcy, records show. He did not return phone and email messages this week.

Another claim in the case, for $456,000, appears tied to a severance deal for the company’s founder and former chief executive, Chris Gronet. He left the company weeks before its collapse last summer, avoiding the public interrogations that befell two other top company executives who invoked their Fifth Amendment rights and refused to testify at a televised congressional hearing.

Bankruptcy filings show a severance deal arranged for Mr. Gronet, also for $456,000, though he never received the money. Phone messages left at a number under Mr. Gronet’s name were not returned.

Bankruptcy records show that some Solyndra executives received bonuses of more than $40,000 in the months before the company’s collapse. The San Jose Mercury News, which reported on the executive bonuses in November, quoted a former employee as saying that retention bonuses were paid to executives because of high turnover.

In some cases, bankruptcy law allows a trustee or debtor to recoup payments to “insiders” of a company, such as top executives and directors and their family members. The payments had to have been made at a time when the company was insolvent.

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