Solyndra grand jury probe begins

Dec. 14, 2011 at 11:21 AM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, Dec. 14 (UPI) -- Billing records indicate a grand jury has started a probe of Solyndra, the California solar-panel maker that lost more than $500 million in federal loans.

Law firm K&L Gates has filed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware a detailed account of what it has been doing on behalf of Solyndra after it filed for bankruptcy in November, The Washington Times reported Tuesday. Most of the firm's efforts were focused on what it called the U.S. attorney's office and Department of Justice investigation into the alt-energy company.

The Times said its review of an 18-page invoice dated Dec. 9 indicated the words "grand jury" appeared numerous times and referenced meetings and phone conversations with federal attorneys.

An investigative grand jury is a key development in the criminal investigation into Solyndra, one observer told the Times.

"The subpoenas would be just the tip of the iceberg," said Laurie Levenson, a former federal prosecutor who teaches at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. "The first things to happen in grand juries are subpoenas to collect every possible document you can."

Federal authorities didn't comment.

K&L Gates attorney Jeffrey L. Bornstein told the Times in an e-mail that "Solyndra is continuing to cooperate with the United States Attorney's Office in connection with its investigation."

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce opened an investigation into Solyndra earlier this year. Republicans want to know whether politics played any role in the award of federal loans to the company or in the unsuccessful efforts to keep the company open. Solyndra received more than a half-billion dollars in loan guarantees from the U.S. Energy Department in 2009.

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