California's own Darrell Issa has started asking some tough questions in the aftermath of the Solyndra bankruptcy and the ensuing fracas with the Department of Energy's loan-guarantee program. This is from Jake Tapper at ABCNews:
Issa…chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government on October 7 wrote to Energy Secretary Dr. Steven Chu to see just what other problematic loans might exist.
Specifically, Issa is seeking “additional information regarding the loans approved on the final day of the program,” ones made to First Solar Inc, SunPower Corp., and ProLogis Inc.
“Did DOE have an independent audit of First Solar, SunPower, or ProLogis conducted prior to finalizing loan guarantees for these companies on September 30, 2011?” Issa asked in the letter.”Does DOE have any ongoing concerns about the financial viability of First Solar, SunPower, or ProLogis? In their respective loan applications, did First Solar, SunPower, or ProLogis disclose their cash reserves?”
It wouldn't be that hard for the DOE to figure out what's going in with any of these companies because they're all publicly traded. Here's First Solar, one of the larger players in the solar space. Here's SunPower, a smaller company. Here's ProLogis, which is actually a real-estate company that's developing a rooftop solar program with NRG Energy.
I'm not sure when FirstSolar, for example, applied for its loan guarantees (it applied for several). But at the end of the second quarter of 2011, it reported $357 million cash on hand. SunPower reported $246 million. ProLogis reported $260 million. It's not a question of the DOE demanding this information. The companies are required by the SEC to disclose it to shareholders.
Does Issa know this? I assume so, but his public statements suggest otherwise — or that he questions whether the audits of their financials that these companies subject themselves to is truly independent.
I checked with Issa's office to get some clarity. Of course, it's Columbus Day and Washington is taking a breather. His staff provided me a copy of the letter sent to Chu, and it does indicate that the committee wants to know whether the companies that received loan guarantees were indepently audited by the DOE, as opposed to the accounting firms that the companies had hired to do this for their annual financial reports.
More to come.