Catch-up on the Solyndra scandal

(Story continues below the timeline.)

  • Introduction

    The government’s $535 million loan to Solyndra Inc., announced in March 2009, was the first Energy Department loan guarantee to an energy project under President Obama. The deal was pitched as a boon to the clean energy movement – and a job creator. But Solyndra went bankrupt, firing 1,100 workers – and renewing questions about how this upstart solar panel company from California landed the prized public financing. Records obtained by iWatch News show that, from the start, the government ignored warning signs about the company’s viability as it pressed ahead with the funding.

  • 2005

    Solyndra Inc. is founded by Dr. Christian Gronet.

  • 2006

    The company opens its headquarters in Fremont, Calif.

  • December 2006

    Solyndra files an application for an Energy Department loan guarantee just before the New Year.

  • 2007

    Production begins on the company’s solar rooftop panels.

  • 2008

    As Solyndra’s loan application proceeds, Fitch Ratings assigns the company a less than stellar B+ credit rating, and Dun & Bradstreet assesses its credit as “fair.”

  • March 2009

    Energy Secretary Steven Chu announces Solyndra will receive the Energy Department's first energy loan guarantee—a $535 million financing to expand the company’s solar rooftop production. From the release: “Secretary Chu initially set a target to have the first conditional commitments out by May—three months into his tenure—but today's announcement significantly outpaces that aggressive timeline. Secretary Chu credited the Department's loan team for their work accelerating the process to offer this conditional commitment in less than two months.”

  • September 2009

    The loan closes and Solyndra begins construction of its "Fab 2" factory to expand its production line. Chu and then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger attend the groundbreaking. "This announcement today is part of the unprecedented investment this Administration is making in renewable energy and exactly what the Recovery Act is all about," Vice President Joe Biden says via teleconference. U.S. Treasury’s Federal Financing Bank issues the loan.

  • December 2009

    Solyndra files papers with the Securities and Exchange Commission as it plans to proceed with an Initial Public Offering.

  • March 2010

    PricewaterhouseCoopers issues a report that raises serious doubts about Solyndra's future. From the audit: “The Company has suffered recurring losses from operations, negative cash flows since inception and has a net stockholders’ deficit that, among other factors, raise substantial doubt about its ability to continue as a going concern.”

  • May 2010

    President Obama visits Solyndra, touting the company as a symbol of progress to cheers from workers and California leaders. “The true engine of economic growth will always be companies like Solyndra,” he said.

  • June 2010

    Solyndra cancels its IPO. A month later, the company appoints Brian Harrison as its new CEO.

  • November 2010

    The company announces it is laying off nearly 180 full and part-time employees. By year’s end, according to the Department of Energy, Solyndra is facing a “cash flow crisis that is very common for innovative start-up companies that are growing quickly.”

  • February 17, 2011

    The House Energy and Commerce Committee and its subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations launch an investigation of Energy Department stimulus funding, with a focus on the Solyndra loan guarantee. Over the ensuing months, the House Committee and White House Office of Management and Budget engage in a scuffle over records, with the Committee subpoenaing OMB and the office turning over thousands of pages of files.

  • February 28, 2011

    Solyndra announces it has raised $75 million in financing led by the corporate entity of George Kaiser, Solyndra’s chief financial backer and a bundler of campaign donations for Obama. DOE refinances its loan to extend Solyndra’s payoff date – and agrees to put investors in line first in case of default. “The Department reached an agreement with Solyndra that gave the company and its 1,100 employees a fighting chance to go forward,” DOE said.

  • May 24, 2011

    The Center for Public Integrity’s iWatch News and ABC News disclose that DOE announced its commitment to support Solyndra in March 2009 before receiving full marketing and legal reviews—a shortcut criticized by GAO auditors.

  • July 2011

    Amid the House investigation, CEO Harrison travels to Washington to meet with members of Congress and journalists to tout Solyndra’s successes, presenting a slide show with the heading: “The real story about Solyndra.”

  • August 1, 2011

    OMB viewed the Solyndra loan as a riskier bet to taxpayers than DOE had, iWatch News reports.

  • August 31, 2011

    Solyndra shuts its doors, fires more than 1,100 full- and part-time workers and announces it is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

  • September 6, 2011

    Solyndra files for bankruptcy. Investors who infused the company with cash will be repaid before the government.

  • September 7, 2011

    iWatch News and ABC News report that Treasury’s loan to Solyndra carried an interest rate of 1 percent, another element in a long line of favorable treatment for the company. Energy officials say the bank set the loan and Solyndra was not given special treatment.

  • September 8, 2011

    The FBI and Energy Department’s inspector general conduct a surprise raid on Solyndra’s office, seizing records and signaling a likely criminal probe of the company. Agents also visit the homes of Harrison, Gronet and another company founder.

  • September 13, 2011

    ABC News and iWatch News disclose internal emails showing White House officials pressing to move ahead with the Solyndra loan – even as red flags are going up. “If you guys think this is a bad idea, I need to unwind the WW [West Wing] QUICKLY,” wrote Ronald A. Klain, then chief of staff to Vice President Joe Biden, in an email sent March 7, 2009. Three days later, an OMB analyst cautioned against moving too quickly. “This deal is NOT ready for prime time.” 10 days later, the Energy Department formally announced its commitment to guarantee the loan.

  • September 14, 2011

    The House Committee on Energy and Commerce holds a hearing on Solyndra, hearing from DOE and OMB officials. Members are not pleased with the answers. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), chair of the House subcommittee leading the investigation, tells Jonathan Silver, executive director of DOE’s Loans Programs Office: “You should have protected the taxpayers and made some forceful actions. … You should have seen the problems.” The Treasury Department’s inspector general confirms it has opened a new front in the investigation–focusing on the $535 million loan, arranged by the Energy Department, but processed by the Federal Financing Bank. “We’re going to look at everything the FFB had to do with its role in this thing,” said Rich Delmar, a spokesman for the Treasury Department’s inspector general.

  • September 23, 2011

    The House Committee on Energy and Commerce holds another hearing, this time to hear from Solyndra CEO Harrison and company CFO W.G. Stover Jr. The executives invoke their 5th Amendment rights in light of the federal investigation.

  • September 29, 2011

    Several of Barack Obama’s top campaign supporters went from soliciting political contributions to working from within the Energy Department as it showered billions in taxpayer-backed stimulus money on alternative energy firms.

  • September 30, 2011

    Top executives at Solyndra have refused to tell U.S. officials whether they received executive bonuses after the company began to fail, and they have frustrated bankruptcy proceedings by refusing to provide any insight into the company’s sudden and dramatic shut-down.

  • October 3, 2011

    New White House emails show a top donor to Barack Obama was in direct contact with one of the president’s closest advisers about the federal energy loan program.

  • October 6, 2011

    The head of the Energy Department's embattled loan program, Jonathan Silver, resigned after a wave of scrutiny for his agency.

  • October 7, 2011

    An elite Obama fundraiser hired to help oversee the administration’s energy loan program pushed and prodded career Energy Department officials to move faster in approving a loan guarantee for Solyndra, even as his wife’s law firm was representing the California solar company, according to internal emails made public.

    Brian Harrison stepped down from his position as CEO.