Granholm Announcement Leaves Many Ethics Questions Unanswered

The American public is left wondering if the Secretary benefitted from the Administration’s promotion of the “Tesla of electric buses”

Today, Protect the Public’s Trust applauds Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm’s decision to divest from Proterra, termed the “Tesla of electric buses,” but notes the decision appears to be a reaction to the weight of external forces and still leaves many relevant ethical questions unanswered. If her actions, as a DOE statement indicates, are “in full compliance with the comprehensive standards set by the Biden Administration,” the American public could rightfully question the value of those standards.

The Secretary released a list of divestments in early April that omitted Proterra while including investments with a far lower likelihood to present conflicts of interest. Between the time of that release and yesterday’s announcement, the President singled out the company for endorsement and promotion when he made a well-publicized virtual visit in April. Some analysts believe the high-profile visit and attention may have affected the company’s value and, as a result, the value of Granholm’s stock options. Additional concerns have been raised by Granholm’s leadership of an initiative around electric vehicle materials – one that could result in significant financial benefits for Proterra and potentially the value of her previous holdings in the company.

“While we are pleased that Secretary Granholm has eventually done the right thing and divested herself from Proterra, many questions remain unanswered,” stated Michael Chamberlain, Director of Protect the Public’s Trust. “Just as concerning, the action appears to be in response to external pressure due to the work of organizations such as Protect the Public’s Trust and journalists like Washington Free Beacon’s Matthew Foldi. While Secretary Granholm no longer owns the stock, the American public still deserves answers to why this perceived conflict lasted as long as it did.”

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BACKGROUND INFORMATION

The American public would be well-served if the Secretary, the Department of Energy, and the Biden Administration provided answers to the following questions:  

  1. Was the value of her stock options affected by Proterra’s promotion by the President while Granholm served as Energy Secretary, such as through his April virtual visit to Proterra?
  2. Was the value of her stock options influenced by the expected benefits the company could accrue from the Biden Administration’s renewable energy and electric vehicle initiatives, including those Granholm was chosen to lead?
  3. Why did Granholm not divest of these particular holdings when she divested of others that presented much lower potential ethical issues?
  4. Will Granholm be involved in any deliberations, decisions or actions at DOE that could benefit Proterra?
  5. Will she continue to lead Administration initiatives that could potentially result in financial benefits for Proterra or her other former green energy clients while with Granholm Mulhern Associates?
  6. Does her husband, either personally or through his consulting business, reconstituted from a partnership with Granholm, have any business or other relationships with Proterra?
  7. Has Granholm asked or will the White House grant a waiver to Granholm to participate in any particular matters of general applicability that might involve Proterra?