FBI Raids CA Solar Panel Maker Who Got $527M in U.S. Funds

Federal agents executed a search warrant at the Northern California headquarters of solar panel manufacturer Solyndra Inc., which laid off most of its workers and filed for bankruptcy protection this week despite receiving $535 million in federal stimulus loan guarantees, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The FBI and Department of Energy’s Office of Inspector General confirmed that their agents were involved in the raid Thursday at Solyndra’s offices in Fremont but declined to discuss what they were investigating. FBI spokesman Peter D. Lee said documents related to the search had been sealed.

Last week, Solyndra abruptly announced that it was ceasing operations and laying off 1,100 employees, a move the company attributed to intense foreign competition and a “global oversupply of solar panels.” The company filed for bankruptcy Tuesday.

Solyndra was  the first company to receive a Department of Energy loan guarantee to boost alternative energy companies. The program received additional funding under 2009’s federal economic stimulus effort.

Solyndra spokesman Dave Miller said the federal raid came as a surprise but that the company was “fully cooperating” with investigators. He said he did not know what the federal agents were looking for but speculated it could be related to the $535-million loan guarantee, of which the company drew $527 million.

A skeleton team of about 100 employees is still working at the factory during a “wind-down” process, Miller said.