- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Solyndra LLC can auction off its assets next month and hire a law firm to assist the solar panel maker in ongoing government probes into the half-billion dollars in federal loans it spent before going broke, a judge ruled Tuesday.

Judge Mary F. Walrath, of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware, ruled that Solyndra may retain the McDermott Will & Emery law firm, which Solyndra had requested in a court pleading earlier this month.

The law firm already had been working for Solyndra “with respect to responding to congressional investigations,” attorneys for Solyndra said in its court filings.

The McDermott Will & Emery lawyers assigned to the Solyndra case include former two-term Republican Massachusetts Gov. William F. Weld at a rate of $825 per-hour, court papers show. Another lawyer, Stephen M. Ryan, a registered lobbyist and head of the firm’s government affairs practice, will receive $775 per-hour, according to billing rates included in the court filings.

David Ransom, a regulatory and government affairs lawyer who worked as communications director for Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, will earn $525 per-hour.

The judge also approved plans by Solyndra to auction the assets of its shuttered California solar panel business, despite a motion by unsecured creditors, which include former employees, asking for more time.

U.S. taxpayers stand to lose more than $500 million through the collapse of Solyndra, which won more than a half-billion dollars in federal loan guarantees in 2009.

Days after it filed for bankruptcy this month, the company was raided by the FBI. Bankruptcy attorneys for Solyndra said in court papers this week the company has been cooperating with the FBI and a congressional probe.

The company also remains the subject of a long-running investigation by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, which had been looking into whether political pressure from the White House played a role in awarding federal loans to Solyndra despite the company’s shaky finances. White House officials have denied pressuring regulators to award Solyndra the loan guarantees.

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

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