- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 29, 2011

Weeks after the FBI raided its headquarters, bankrupt solar-panel maker Solyndra LLC is seeking permission from a federal bankruptcy court to pay $525 to $640 per hour to lawyers to represent the California-based company in an ongoing criminal probe.

In a newly filed motion in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware, attorneys for Solyndra are seeking permission to hire the K&L Gates law firm as special counsel “with regard to a federal criminal investigation.”

The motion states that K&L Gates is already familiar with the investigation and with Solyndra’s business affairs as well as “many of the potential issues that may arise in the context of that investigation and potential litigation.”

The FBI raided Solyndra’s offices on Sept. 8, days after the company had filed for bankruptcy, but federal authorities haven’t said what sort of potential criminal activity they’re investigating. The company won more than a half-billion dollars in loan guarantees from the Department of Energy in 2009 but collapsed just two years later.

Lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle have raised concerns that Solyndra executives gave officials assurances that the company’s business prospects were bright just weeks before it went bankrupt, suspended operations and fired more than 1,000 employees.

If the motion is approved, the company would pay $625 per hour for the services of K&L Gates’ Jeffrey L. Bornstein, who joined the firm in 2005 after nearly 20 years as a prosecutor at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Francisco.

Mikal J. Condon, another K&L Gates lawyer, would be paid $525 per hour. She specializes in “a wide range of high-stakes civil litigation, including intellectual property, antitrust and securities litigation, as well as white collar criminal defense,” according to the firm’s website. Both lawyers are based in San Francisco.

K&L Gates has nearly 2,000 lawyers who practice in 38 offices located on three continents.

The motion to hire the law firm comes after Solyndra won approval to hire another law firm also to serve as special counsel in connection with investigations of the company in Congress.

This week, Judge Mary F. Walrath of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware ruled that Solyndra could retain the McDermott Will & Emery law firm, where former Massachusetts Republican Gov. William Weld, will be paid $825 per-hour to work on the Solyndra matter, records show.

Solyndra’s top two executives appeared recently before a House committee to answer questions about the company’s fast collapse, but both refused to answer any questions, invoking their rights under the Fifth Amendment.

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

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