Issues

Solyndra fire sale

Firm made dubious sales on the brink of bankruptcy last summer

The Washington Times reports that Solyndra, the failed solar panel company on the receiving end of a $535 million taxpayer-guaranteed loan, made a series of suspicious inventory sales just month before filing for bankruptcy, in an effort to stay afloat:

Fast running out of money, solar-panel maker Solyndra LLC last summer sold off nearly $60 million worth of inventory for less than $20 million in cash to a newly formed corporate entity closely tied to the company’s biggest investors, records show.

Backed by $535 million in federal loan guarantees but burning through the little cash it had left, Solyndra made its first sale in late July to a corporate entity that had been formed just a day earlier. Three more transactions followed over the next few weeks with the same buyer, Solyndra Solar II.

By the time the last sale took place on Aug. 29 — two days before the company announced plans to file for bankruptcy — Solyndra had sold off a total of $58.1 million worth of inventory for $17.5 million, according to documents Solyndra attorneys filed last month in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware.

Todd Zywicki, a bankruptcy professor at the George Mason University School of Law, told the Times such sales are typical of troubled firms, but the sheer size of the transactions made them unusual.

"The test under the bankruptcy code is whether the sale was for reasonably equivalent value and selling inventory at such a huge discount raises real concerns," he said. "If Solyndra Solar II is owned or controlled by any insiders or anything like that, then it becomes even more suspicious."