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As Solyndra faltered, top executives collected big bonuses

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Senior executives at Solyndra Inc. collected multiple bonuses, some as high as $60,000, as the solar panel manufacturer bled cash and careened toward bankruptcy over the summer.

Bankruptcy documents filed in Delaware this week reveal that more than a dozen senior executives at the defunct solar manufacturing company were awarded sizable quarterly bonuses on April 15 and again on July 8. Solyndra, based in Fremont, Calif., ceased operations in late August and filed for bankruptcy Sept. 6. About 1,100 employees were laid off without severance pay.

The bonuses, awarded to more than a dozen executives, came on top of what were already competitive salaries. Karen Alter, Solyndra's vice president of marketing, had an annual base salary of $275,000; she was awarded a $55,000 bonus in April and again in July. Ben Bierman, Solyndra's executive vice president of operations and engineering, had an annual base salary of $300,000; he was awarded $60,000 in April and again in July. Will Stover, the company's chief financial officer, was also awarded a $60,000 bonus in April and again in July.

Details of the bonuses come as Solyndra attempts to auction off the manufacturing equipment that remains in the idled Fremont factory.

Bruce Groshsgal, Solyndra's bankruptcy attorney, did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

The bonuses were put in place in an effort to retain talent at Solyndra, which suffered from enormously high turnover during its five years in operation, the San Jose Mercury News said it was told by a former Solyndra employee whom it did not identify.

The Mercury News said the former employee told it that the retention bonus was meant to keep people until July, since turnover was about 30 to 45 percent. The retention packages apparently began in late 2010 under Brian Harrison, who was named CEO in July 2010.

Chris Gronet, the company's founder and original CEO, had a base salary of $400,000. When he was replaced by Harrison, his severance package totaled $456,000. The bankruptcy documents show that Gronet never received the money.

Solyndra was awarded a $535 million loan guarantee from the Department of Energy in 2009, and the company's implosion has raised numerous questions about the company's financial health. The Department of Energy agreed to restructure Solyndra's debt in early 2011, and had observer status on Solyndra's board of directors.

As Solyndra faltered, top executives collected big bonuses 11/02/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 2, 2011 8:07pm]
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