If Brian Harrison and W. G. Stover, the two Solyndra executives who took the Fifth Amendment at a Congressional hearing on Friday, ever spend a day in jail, I’ll stand on my head in Times Square.
It’s not going to happen, for one simple reason: neither they, nor anyone else connected with Solyndra, have done anything remotely criminal. The company’s recent bankruptcy — which the Republicans are now rabidly “investigating” because Solyndra had the misfortune to receive a $535 million federally guaranteed loan from the Obama administration — was largely brought on by a stunning collapse in the price of solar panels over the past year or so.
The company’s innovative solar panels, high-priced to begin with, became increasingly uncompetitive in the marketplace. Solyndra didn’t have enough big commercial customers to create the necessary economies of scale. And although Harrison and Stover remained optimistic up to the bitter end — insisting six weeks before the late-August bankruptcy filing that the company was going to be fine — they ultimately failed to raise additional capital that would have allowed Solyndra to stay in business.
The Republicans are trying to make that optimism appear sinister, but if we’ve learned anything from the financial crisis, it is that wishful thinking in the face of a collapsing market is not a crime. Otherwise, Richard Fuld, the former chief executive of Lehman Brothers, would be wearing prison garb….
At the hearing on Friday, several of the Republican congressmen boasted that, in passing the continuing resolution to keep the government running the day before, they had succeeded in slashing the program that had made the loan to Solyndra….
But the real winner isn’t the American taxpayer or even the House Republicans. It’s the Chinese solar industry.
That’s business columnist Joe Nocera in a great NY Times piece “The Phony Solyndra Scandal.” Nocera is not some progressive, renewable energy advocate columnist. Before joining the NYT in 2005, “Mr. Nocera spent 10 years at Fortune Magazine, where he held a variety of positions, including contributing writer, editor-at-large and executive editor.”
That’s why his piece makes so much sense – he is just looking at this with business sense. Here’s more: