Obama administration had advance warning on Fisker

Associated Press file photo -- Fisker Automotive, the maker of a sports luxury plug-in hybrid, was having trouble meeting milestones for an Energy Department loan nearly a year before U.S. officials froze financing, documents released Wednesday show.
Associated Press file photo -- Fisker Automotive, the maker of a sports luxury plug-in hybrid, was having trouble meeting milestones for an Energy Department loan nearly a year before U.S. officials froze financing, documents released Wednesday show.

The Obama administration was warned as early as 2010 that electric car maker Fisker Automotive Inc. was not meeting milestones set up for a half-billion dollar government loan, nearly a year before U.S. officials froze the financing after questions were raised about the company’s statements, newly released documents show.

An Energy Department official said in a June 2010 email that Fisker’s bid to draw on the federal loan may be jeopardized for failure to meet goals established by the Energy Department.

Despite that warning, Fisker continued to receive money until June 2011, when the Energy Department halted further funding.

The agency did so after Fisker presented new information that called into question whether key milestones — including launch of the company’s signature $100,000 Karma hybrid — had been achieved, according to a credit report prepared by the Energy Department.

The December 2011 credit report said “DOE staff asked questions about the delays” in the launch of the Karma “and received varied and incomplete explanations,” leading to the suspension of the loan.

Fisker had received $192 million of the $529 million loan before it was suspended.

In the June 2010 email, Sandra Claghorn, an official in the Energy Department loan program office, wrote that Fisker “may be in limbo due to a lack of compliance with financial covenants” set up by the department to protect taxpayers in the event of default. Another document, from April 2010, listed milestones that Fisker had not yet met.

Aoife McCarthy, a spokeswoman for the Energy Department, said the June 2010 email was taken out of context.

“The document shows that one person at a meeting discussed the possibility that Fisker might not meet a financial commitment” required by the Energy Department, McCarthy said in an email.

The department received the needed certification five days later and subsequently made the loan payment, she said.

The documents were released Wednesday by the House Oversight and Government Reform committee, which is looking into the federal loan to the troubled car maker. Continuing financial and production problems have led to the lay-off of three-fourths of Fisker’s workers.

White House spokesman Jay Carney accused congressional Republicans of leaking the documents in an effort to embarrass the Obama administration.

“The committee’s efforts to stoke false controversy by selectively leaking a few out-of-context documents just do not stand up to scrutiny,” Carney said Wednesday.