One of the largest solar companies in the country must pay tens of millions of dollars in fines to settle allegations it lied to the government to receive federal subsidies.
SolarCity, a subdivision of electric vehicle maker Tesla, agreed to pay $29.5 million to resolve allegations the company submitted inflated claims to cash in on a solar stimulus program, the Department of Justice announced Friday. This is not an admission of guilt.
“This program expired, but this settlement demonstrates that the government will still hold accountable those who sought to take improper advantage of government programs at the expense of American taxpayers,” Chad Readler, an assistant attorney of the Justice Department’s Civil Division, wrote in a press statement.
SolarCity denies any wrong-doing and claims the company was entitled to the money it received from the program.
“SolarCity took its responsibilities under the program very seriously … and it went to great lengths to determine accurate values,” a SolarCity representative told reporters in a press statement. “Independent appraisers, accountants, and investors gave those projects a total value of approximately $1.8 billion.”
The Justice Department’s probe targeted a program enacted during the Obama administration seeking to subsidize panel installations to encourage solar panel adoption. Solar companies received federal grants equal to 30 percent of the full cost of a solar system.
SolarCity’s increasingly bizarre business practices have come under scrutiny recently. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), for instance, began investigating the company earlier this year for not telling investors about the number of customers who canceled contracts for solar energy systems. California-based Sunrun is also being investigated.
SolarCity has continually knocked down any accusation of wrong-doing. The company “has remained focused on reporting the quality of our installed assets, not pre-install cancellation rates,” a spokeswoman told reporters at the time of the SEC probe. “Our growth projections have always been based on actual deployments.”
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