Solyndra probe excludes top Bay Area prosecutor

SAN FRANCISCO Wed Oct 5, 2011 7:26pm EDT

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The top prosecutor for Northern California won't participate in a criminal investigation of failed solar energy company Solyndra because of ties to a law firm involved in the case.

The Solyndra investigation is one of the highest profile corporate investigations underway in California.

Just days after the company's September 6 bankruptcy filing, the Federal Bureau of Investigation raided Solyndra's headquarters in Fremont, California. And Congress is investigating the role political connections played in securing a government loan guarantee for Solyndra, which was visited by U.S. President Barack Obama last year.

Melinda Haag, the U.S. attorney in San Francisco, worked as a partner at the Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe law firm when President Obama nominated her for her current job. The same firm now represents Solyndra Chief Executive Brian Harrison.

Haag must refrain from participating in any matter related to her former employer for two years, under a broad ethics pledge promulgated by Obama that applies to executive appointees.

Haag declined to comment on Solyndra on Wednesday.

The Department of Energy's clean energy loan program also triggered a recusal promise from Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, a state court judge nominated by Obama for the federal bench in Northern California. Her husband, Matt Rogers, oversaw DOE's grant and loan program before returning to McKinsey & Company.

Gonzalez Rogers promised to remove herself from any cases regarding the granting of those funds, according to a questionnaire she completed for the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.

Her nomination is pending before the full U.S. Senate after the committee approved it in a bipartisan voice vote last month.

(Reporting by Dan Levine; Editing by Richard Chang)