Federal agents executed a surprise search of the California headquarters of failed solar firm Solyndra, Inc. on Thursday morning, focusing attention anew on a corporate beneficiary of President Obama's stimulus program to create new clean energy jobs. The company has been a subject of an ongoing series of stories by the Center for Public Integrity's iWatch News in collaboration with ABC News.
The search is a joint operation involving the FBI and the Energy Department's inspector general, suggesting the focus of the investigation involves, at least in part, a $535 million government loan to Solyndra. Karen Sulier, a spokeswoman for the IG's office, is taking part in the probe. "We confirm the involvement of the Office of Inspector General's special agents in today's activities at Solyndra," Sulier told iWatch News.
Prosecutors and law enforcement authorities declined to discuss the raid. "We have no comment," said Jack Gillund, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office's Northern District in California.
"The FBI is here this morning executing a search warrant," Solyndra spokesman David Miller told iWatch News. Asked what records the agency was seeking, Miller said: "I can't talk about that. I don't know."
He said the search took the company by surprise. "We'll cooperate with them and given them whatever they are looking for, but certainly it was a surprise," Miller said. "I came to work this morning and they were here and I've been sorting it out."
About the inspector general's involvement, Miller said, "I don't know if that's true. I've only dealt with the FBI agents who were here on site."
The San Jose Mercury News and other west coast media described agents leaving and entering the company's Solyndra headquarters in clothing with the FBI's insignia.
The company, which counted among its investors a major fundraiser for President Obama, just filed for bankruptcy. It had received a half-billion dollar government loan following a fast-track approval process and involving an interest rate lower than other green projects benefitting from Energy Department help.
The benefit, part of the administration's job-creating stimulus, failed to prevent the company from shuttering its doors and laying off 1,100 people, excluding a skeletal crew that includes Miller.
Members of Congress have been scrutinizing the loan, as well.
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