Two top executives from the embattled company Solyndra will appear before Congress later this week, but their lawyers announced today that they will invoke their Fifth Amendment rights and decline to answer questions, ABC News reports.
"This is not a decision arrived at lightly, but it is a decision dictated by current circumstances," wrote Walter F. Brown Jr., the lawyer for Solyndra CEO Brian Harrison in a letter to Congress.
Among those circumstances, the lawyer said, is a broadening investigation by the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice into the Obama administration's decision to loan $535 million to the California solar power company, and the abrupt financial ruin of the firm, which shut its doors late last month.
"It would be irresponsible for anyone in his position not to [take the Fifth]," wrote Jan Nielsen Little, the lawyer for Solyndra's chief financial officer, W.G. Stover, Jr., in a separate letter.
In a statement, a Solyndra spokesperson said Harrison and Stover would be "unable to provide substantive answers to the Subcommittee's questions," and said that "present circumstances require both gentlemen to exercise their Fifth Amendment rights."
The statement added that Solyndra is unaware of any wrongdoing by company officials related to the loan guarantee "or otherwise," and is cooperating with federal investigators. "The company believes that the record will establish that Solyndra carefully followed the rules of the competitive application process, starting in December 2006 under the Bush administration and continuing under the Obama administration."
Members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has been conducting its own investigation into the loan, expressed outrage that the executives -- after promising to freely answer questions -- would now insist on remaining silent.