How did Solyndra get a sweetheart interest rate?

posted at 4:05 pm on September 7, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

ABC News discovered that the solar-tech firm Solyndra got unusually low interest rates on its federally-guaranteed loans before it collapsed last month, sending 1000 workers to the unemployment line in California.  Other green-tech firms receiving loans paid as much as three and four times the interest rate Solyndra secured for its $535 million from Barack Obama’s 2009 stimulus bill from the Treasury’s Federal Financing Bank.  ABC notes that other green-tech firms didn’t have the connections that Solyndra had to Obama:

The $535 million loan to Solyndra Inc., issued by the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Federal Financing Bank, included a quarterly interest rate of 1.025 percent, the government bank reported in July. Of 18 Energy Department loans cited in the bank’s report, Solyndra’s rate was lowest. Eight other Energy Department projects, each also backed by the Federal Financing Bank, came with rates three or four times higher, the report shows.

That treatment is in keeping with the history of the loan to the California solar panel maker, an arrangement inked in September 2009 with great fanfare — and touted, not long after, during a factory visit from the president. Monthly government bank reports filed since then reveal Solyndra’s rate as the lowest for any energy-related project in nearly every report; in every case its rate was well below that of most energy projects, which ranged from cutting-edge electric car makers to wind and solar ventures. …

Solyndra’s most prolific financial backer is George Kaiser, an Oklahoma oil billionaire who was a bundler of campaign donations for Obama’s 2008 race. Kaiser’s Argonaut Ventures and its affiliates have been the single largest shareholder of Solyndra, according to SEC filings and other records. The company holds 39 percent of Solyndra’s parent company, bankruptcy records filed Tuesday show.

And guess who gets paid out of the bankruptcy first?

Under terms of the bankruptcy filing, investors including Argonaut — which led a $75 million round of financing for Solyndra earlier this year — will stand in line before the federal government and other creditors.

When Solyndra announced that round of fundraising this February, it noted that the DOE had refinanced terms of the $535 million loan to extend the payment period. Under an “inter-creditor agreement” cited in the bankruptcy filing, the investors in the $75 million financing are considered first lien holders. That leaves Obama officials to confront the prospect of waiting behind private companies.

Don’t think that this happened by accident.  Before Obama took office, Solyndra applied for the federally-subsidized green-tech loan, and only scored a B+ from appraisers, which ABC calls a “red flag.”  Dun & Bradstreet only gave a “fair” rating to Solyndra credit, another indication that a big loan might be risky.  Instead of slowing the process down to protect taxpayers, the Obama administration fast-tracked Solyndra’s application and made the company a poster child for its promise of a green-jobs “explosion.”

The White House has to explain why it overruled the FFB’s auditors and ignored the warnings from appraisers while fast-tracking over half a billion dollars to a teetering company at loan rates far below what FFB charged other companies.  Obama also needs an explanation of why his bundler George Kaiser will get his capital back before taxpayers see the first dime of that $535 million that got destroyed in Solyndra’s collapse.  If they don’t have a legitimate explanation for these, then Congress may need to start issuing subpoenas to get answers, because right now it looks very much like Obama used taxpayer money to try to bail out a key campaign donor and left us all holding the bag.

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