- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Executives at bankrupt Solyndra, which collapsed last month after receiving more than a half-billion dollars in federal loans, plan to refuse to testify in a congressional hearing Friday now that the FBI is investigating the company.

Lawyers for the company’s chief executive officer, Brian Harrison, and chief financial officer, W.G. Stover Jr., said in a letter to the House Energy and Commerce Committee that the executives would invoke the Fifth Amendment in response to any questions.

“This is not a decision arrived at lightly, but it is a decision dictated by current circumstances,” Mr. Harrison’s attorney, Walter F. Brown Jr., wrote in a letter to the committee Tuesday.

“While I have instructed my client not to testify at the hearing, it would be a mistake to infer anything from this other than that it is the act of a prudent lawyer who is newly engaged to represent a witness in ongoing government investigations.”

But Republican lawmakers railed against the decision not to have the solar company executives testify about why the company collapsed despite hundreds of millions of dollars in federal loans and praise from the Obama administration, which held the company out to be a success story of the federal stimulus program.

“Who exactly are the Solyndra executives trying to protect and what are they trying to hide?” Rep. Fred Upton, Michigan Republican, said in a joint statement with Rep. Cliff Stearns, Florida Republican, after receiving the letters from the attorneys Tuesday.

Mr. Upton is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Mr. Stearns is chairman of its oversight and investigations subcommittee. The committee has been investigating for months, but its probe picked up momentum after the company filed for bankruptcy and saw its offices raided by the FBI earlier this month.

But there are no plans to call off the hearing Friday. Mr. Upton and Mr. Stearns said they still have “many questions for Solyndra’s executives on their dealings with the Obama administration, their efforts to secure federal support for a project that seems doomed from the outset and why they made certain representations to Congress regarding their dire financial situation just two months ago.”

Meanwhile, Solyndra is seeking permission from a federal bankruptcy judge to allow the company to hire a law firm, McDermott Will & Emery, to assist it with the ongoing federal investigations it’s facing. Former Massachusetts Gov. William F. Weld stands to earn $825 per hour if a judge approves the plan.

• Jim McElhatton can be reached at jmcelhatton@washingtontimes.com.

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