Brian Harrison, the chief executive of Solyndra – the solar energy firm that filed for bankruptcy last month after receiving a $528 million federal loan – has stepped down in the wake of multiple investigations into the company that threaten to tarnish the White House.
Harrison, who was among the company’s top executives to plead the Fifth repeatedly during a congressional hearing last month, “left the company as scheduled” last Friday, Solyndra reported in a bankruptcy court document filed late Tuesday and obtained by FoxNews.com. But the document didn’t offer more details on his departure and a Solyndra spokesman could not be reached for comment.
The company is seeking to replace him with R. Todd Neilson, who would serve as Solyndra’s chief restructuring officer. Neilson has previously served as bankruptcy trustee for former boxing star Mike Tyson and Death Row Records, which once employed Tupac Shakur, Dr. Dre and Snoop Dog, according to the filing.
The departure comes just one week after the Energy Department confirmed that the director of its controversial loan program resigned. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said that Jonathan Silver told him in July that he planned to return to the private sector soon after the program ended Sept. 30.
Harrison joined Solyndra in July 2010, a year after the company was the first to receive a loan from the Energy Department under President Obama’s stimulus-law program encouraging green energy.
At the time, Harrison said in a press release, “I am extremely excited about joining Solyndra. Solyndra’s rooftop photovoltaic system is highly differentiated, and the market opportunity for the company is tremendous. I look forward to leading Solyndra to the be the pre-eminent solar system provider for commercial and industrial rooftops.”
But the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last month and laid off its 1,100 employees. Then the FBI raided the company’s California headquarters. Republican lawmakers as well as the inspectors general for the Treasury and Energy departments are investigating Solyndra.
The company’s implosion and revelations that the administration hurried Office of Management and Budget officials to finish their review of the loan in time for the September 2009 groundbreaking has become an embarrassment for Obama as he tries to sell his new job-creation program. Obama once touted the company as a model for green energy success when he toured the facility.
Harrison and Solydnra’s chief financial officer, Bill Stover, pleaded the Fifth Amendment more than a dozen times in a congressional hearing last month.
Harrison and Stover told the House and Energy and Commerce Committee they were going to invoke their Fifth Amendment right to decline to testify to avoid self-incrimination.