In a re-election bid mired with questions about Benghazi, President Barack Obama can now officially add another hot-button issue to his plate: the recent bankruptcy of solar company Abound Solar, which has been called "Colorado's own Solyndra." A criminal investigation is now officially underway, headed up by the Weld County District Attorney's Office in Colorado, for what it calls "possible securities fraud, consumer fraud and financial misrepresentation."
Although an official press release issued by the office of Weld County DA Ken Buck indicated that “no one has been charged with a crime at this early point in the investigation,” the Investigations Unit of the district attorney’s office is probing allegations of securities fraud based on claims that Abound Solar knowingly misled investors about products the company knew were defective.
The second of three allegations claims that Abound Solar misled lenders when applying for a bridge loan that served to keep the company in operation until DOE loans had been received. The third alleges that Abound Solar may have perpetrated consumer fraud if officials within the company were aware their products were defective when they were sold to consumers.
In March, it was reported that Abound Solar had halted production of its first generation thin-film solar modules and would be “temporarily” laying off 180 workers from its Loveland, Colorado-based facility. In June, it was reported that the company would be closing down operations permanently and filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, just two years after receiving a $400 million loan guarantee from the Department of Energy — $70 million of which had already been drawn. The company’s final closure resulted in the loss of an additional 125 jobs.
With the Presidential election now only days away, it remains to be seen how these latest developments will impact the public perception of President Obama’s efforts to fund green energy initiatives with taxpayer dollars. In a televised interview with KUSA’s Kyle Clark, Obama said, “These loans that are given out by the Department of Energy for clean energy have created jobs all across the country. Some of them have failed, but the vast majority of them are pushing us forward into a clean energy direction.”
Obama added, “These are decisions, by the way, that are made by the Department of Energy. They have nothing to do with politics.” Since this statement, emails have surfaced on the website of CompleteColorado.com that point to a possible greater involvement by White House officials to ensure approval of DOE loans to Abound Solar.
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has also begun its own probe of the issue. Initially, Abound Solar cited “aggressive pricing actions from Chinese solar panel companies” as the primary reason for its inability to gain a foothold in the market — however a letter of inquiry sent to Energy Secretary Steven Chu by three Republican congressmen pointed to recently published reports and public domain documents that may indicate “persistent technological problems” as the principal cause of the company’s downfall.
The Department of Energy has said that of the $70 million stimulus funds used by Abound Solar, approximately $40 million to $60 million will be picked up by taxpayers. Abound Solar also received an estimated $300 million in private investment funding.
Lead image: Investigation via Shutterstock
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