Energy Department hired Wall Street to Salvage $olyndra

C.J. Ciaramella Contributor
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When solar company Solyndra was spiraling into bankruptcy, the Department of Energy paid a firm with heavy Democratic connections to analyze a potential bail out of the company — all while Solyndra execs continued to receive hefty bonuses for their work.

The Energy Department hired Wall Street firm Lazard Ltd. in August to investigate possible bail out options to salvage Solyndra. According to the Associated Press, the Energy Department paid Lazard $1 million to analyze refinancing options for Solyndra.

Lazard argued in an Aug. 17 memo that Solyndra was almost certain to fail without a new infusion of cash, likely resulting “in little recovery to the DOE.”

As originally reported by The Weekly Standard, Lazard Ltd. is a top contributor to the Democratic Party, not to mention a top 20 donor to the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Lazard employee Antonio Weiss is a bundler for Obama’s re-election campaign who has raised between $100,000 and $200,000 for the president. Vernon Jordan, a member of the firm’s board of directors, is a former adviser to Bill Clinton.

The Energy Department ultimately rejected Lazard’s refinancing plan, and Solyndra declared bankruptcy on Aug. 31.

But in the months leading up to Solyndra’s bankruptcy, its top executives were still raking in lucrative salaries and bonuses to boot. (RELATED: House panel approves subpoena on Solyndra loan)

Bonuses were awarded to more than a dozen Solyndra executives on top of their already lucrative salaries. Solyndra vice president of marketing Karen Alter — base salary of $275,000 — snagged a $55,000 bonus in April and again in July. Executive vice president of operations and engineering Ben Bierman — base salary of $300,000 — was awarded $60,000 in April and July. Chief Financial Officer Will Stover also twice received a $60,000 bonus.

Former CEO Chris Gronet was also awarded a $456,000 severance package, although bankruptcy documents show Gronet has yet to receive the money. No severances were given to the roughly 1,100 employees who were laid off after Solyndra declared bankruptcy.

As previously reported by The Daily Caller, Solyndra execs and board members and investors had cozy relations with Democrats. Bierman donated $5,500 to Obama’s election campaign, and Alter donated $23,000 in 2008. According to information collected by the Center for Responsive Politics, Solyndra board members have donated at least $27,400 to Democratic campaigns and affiliates.

One point of interest the bankruptcy documents have revealed is that Gronet was fired on July 1, two months before the company’s financial woes went public.

Yet Solyndra continued to paint a rosy picture of its future for members of Congress. In a June memo titled “Exceeding Expectations: Solyndra Today” and a letter to several members of Congress, Solyndra claimed it was “on track” and “ramping up production” to meet revenue and job-creation goals set by the Department of Energy.

A July letter to the House Energy and Commerce Committee said, “Solyndra’s revenues grew from $6 million in 2008 to $100 million in 2009 to $140 million in 2010. For 2011, revenues are projected to nearly double again.”

The letter did not mention Gronet’s departure.

The Department of Energy Inspector General and the FBI are both investigating Solyndra’s collapse. Both have refused to comment on the ongoing investigation.

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