Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Today, let's talk about "Emoluments"......and "Sleepy Joe"

Today we're going to talk about "Emoluments", specifically how they apply to "Sleepy Joe" Biden and why he should absolutely not be the next leader of the free world. 

Sorry Joe, I love ya man, but you've got to let it go.

What is an "Emolument"?

We hear this phrase kicked around often now, generally, an Emolument is a kickback by a foreign government/entity/agent given to an "Officer" of the United States Government, presumably to get said "Officer" to act in the best interests of the foreign government/agent/entity rather than in the interests of the United States Government.  The Constitution describes an "Emolument" as follows: 
"No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State."
ARTICLE I, SECTION 9, CLAUSE 8
Of course, there is loads of case law describing exactly what an emolument is, as well as the clarification of the spirit of the framers intent.  Here are a few excellent/descriptive examples of emoluments:

 1.) Payments to a Nuclear Regulatory Commission employee by an American consulting firm for work regarding the construction of a Mexican government power plant  (Application of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution and the Foreign Gifts and Decorations Act, 6 Op. O.L.C. 156, 156 (1982)) 

2.) Payments to a part-time Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff consultant by an American corporation for work on a contract with the government of Taiwan. (Application of Emoluments Clause to Part-Time Consultant for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, 10 Op. O.L.C. at 96.)

3.) Payments to members of the Administrative Conference of the United States, by those members’ law firms, of “a share of partnership earnings", where some portion of that share is derived from the partnership’s representation of a foreign government. (Applicability of the Emoluments Clause to Non-Government Members of ACUS, 17 Op. O.L.C. 114, 120 (1993))

4.) A retired U.S. Air Force member’s employment “as a teacher in a local borough high school" in the United Kingdom.  Comptroller General, Matter of: Major James D. Dunn & Senior Master Sergeant Marcus A. Jenkins, B-251084 (Oct. 12, 1993). 

5.) A Navy surgeon’s receipt of a “token of thankfulness” from a foreign government for his services on behalf of one of its citizens.  A Resolution allowing Doctor E.K. Kane, and the Officers associated with him in their late Expedition to the Artic seas, in search of Sir John Franklin, to accept such Token of Acknowledgment from the Government of Great Britain as it may please to present, Aug. 30, 1856, 11 Stat. 152.  


In my way of thinking, the above case examples (there are many more) establish four very important principles:

1.) Officers of the US Government have long been held accountable and the rules are well established to prevent them from accepting benefits from a foreign entity without congressional approval.

2.) The amount of the benefit is irrelevant.  Appearance of impropriety is just as important when determining the existence of an emolument as the actual mechanics of the scheme.

3.) The Officers held accountable are usually those (un-elected) "lesser Officers" who may or may not think they did anything wrong.  In fact, I'm hard pressed to come up with a single emoluments case brought against an elected officer of the government...ever. (I am of course excluding the current Cases v. the President as the disposition of same is currently in doubt).   Perhaps some of you legal historians can come up with a few, but I am currently unable to locate a successful precedent where a sitting elected official was sanctioned for an "emolument".  If any of you know of one I'd like to read the case(s).

4.) Since most citizen actions "lack standing" for one reason or another, emoluments issues and enforcement are usually policed internally, i.e.) By the US Government Agency involved against the Government Officer recipient in the alleged emolument.  For White house officials, Congressmen/Women and Senators they are theoretically (and selectively) self policing.

That said, we live in a complex world.  Given the above, contemporary emolument enforcement issues/limitations have more to do with structure, investigative methods and the ability to detect them, than with the framers Constitutional intent.  i.e.) If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it might just be a duck....but you still have to prove it.  In duck hunters parlance, the problem is that it's getting really difficult and time consuming to set our gun sites on these mother-fluttering, flocks of ducks.  They are everywhere, but they either seem to be out of range, or we don't have enough ammunition.

For example, would the following be "Emoluments"?

1.) A foreign SOE (State Owned Enterprise) enters into a partnership with an American Citizen to start a Cayman Islands LLC.  The LLC makes a loan to another American Citizen and the Citizen uses the money to fund a PAC which specifically provides soft money advertising support and campaign funding to specific candidates who agree to support the PAC's agenda.

2.) A foreign government directs its citizens to "invest" in specific residential real estate projects either by purchasing individual units or entering into leases at above market rates, where the US Government Officer or an immediate family member has a specific interest in an LLC, which owns part of the real estate project(s). 

3.) A foreign government/agency communicates, in advance of a public announcement, with a US Government Officer, insider information on a particular US Listed Foreign Stock (Alibaba for example) in which the Government Officer might take a financial position or two, directly benefiting that Officer.  There's a reason our lawmakers arrive in Washington in debt and leave with wheelbarrows full of treasure.

Most people who understand what's happening would say "Of course these are Emoluments!" which could influence the decision making and legislation biases of the targeted government officer.  But when you really begin to peel the onion back, how in the world do you investigate this, or even find out about it?  Any investigator can ask lots of questions, but without significant leg work, whistle-blowers and/or resource/time spent, it's likely schemes like this will go undetected for a long time, or perhaps forever.  The paperwork and trail all seems to match up.  Everything looks legitimate.  "Nothing to see here".  When every little piggy in the good-old-boy network is racing to the trough, it would be the rare piggy indeed who'd refuse the never ending buckets of slop, and spoil the party for the entire pigsty.


So now let's talk about "Sleepy Joe"....  

In 2008, America's Vice President-to-be along with several other close friends, investors and family members established a number of ShellCos in New York and Delaware, but let's focus on a specific  Delaware Investment Company (Biden Real Estate Holding Company, LLC) ostensibly formed in order to invest at least a portion of Joe's massive $169,500 per year windfall Vice Presidential Salary, and I'm sure, along with "other funds" that may somehow end up in his accounts from time to time.
































(search "Biden" for related ShellCos) 
https://icis.corp.delaware.gov/Ecorp/EntitySearch/NameSearch.aspx

Shortly after formation, the Biden Real Estate Holdings LLC entered into a private partnership (or some sort of contractual agreement) with a series of New York LLC's (Hudson Waterfront Company A, B, C, etc.).  The Hudson Waterfront Company LLC's, et al primary purpose was to re-market and redevelop a struggling, underfunded NYC real estate project known as the "Riverside Boulevard Project".

The Riverside Boulevard Project consists of three residential/condo towers:

200 Riverside Boulevard (46 stories, 360 Units, Built in 1997)
220 Riverside Boulevard (48 stories, 412 Units, Built in 2000)
240 Riverside Boulevard (31 stories, 166 Units, Built in 2004)

At the time of Biden Real Estate Holding Company LLC's investment, (after more than eleven years for 200 Riverside, eight years for 220 Riverside and nearly four years for 240 Riverside) the property was approximately half sold, most units were still either held for rent with (likely) significant unfinished/vacancy.  The plan for the development was to refinance the property, make significant capital improvements, cut some operating costs, re-position the brand and sell off remaining units at a higher price point.

Of course, these investments were made just prior to, and during the financial crisis and you would have thought that a troubled project like this might have been one of the first to succumb to the downturn and end up as yet another failed dream on the scrapheap of insolvency, like so many other ill conceived and ill timed projects did at the time.  But fast forward to 2019 and behold, the project not only survived but is apparently flourishing.

The skill and perseverance of the management team, as well as the business model must have been state of the art, as other projects faced horrific headwinds and many failed at the time.  Somehow, the Riverside Boulevard project survived and in fact seems to be thriving today.  I'd also venture an educated guess that the financial help, connections and business acumen of the Vice President of the United States probably didn't hinder the inevitable, eventual success of this project either.   


Riverside Boulevard Today.....
 
Interestingly enough, I have good friends that live in this complex and have visited a number of times.  Although much of the complex still seems to be unoccupied (no lights on at night) the buildings seem to be well maintained and the service is excellent.  The apartments are spacious, the views of the river and the city are gorgeous and, per our good friends, the rent is very competitive and a great value compared to other similar properties.

One phenomenon that piqued my curiosity is that often, when I'm in the lobby or the elevator of their building, it often seems as though I'm the only person who uses "English as a first language".  Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong with this, I just found it peculiar.

As you, my readers know, when I see something peculiar, I tend to try to understand it and determine what the peculiarity really means, along with the genesis of said peculiarity.

Fortunately, I also have good friends who have access to all sorts of data, who are extremely generous with their time and expertise.  In this case, my friend Alex Bresler @ABresler has provided transaction/ownership data from ACRIS, the NYC Real Estate database to try to analyze exactly what might be going on here.  Here's the raw data dump.  Feel free to import it into an Excel Spreadsheet (CSV) if you want to take a look at it.

https://gist.githubusercontent.com/abresler/891e4b646a8f800233bca8a47f1637cf/raw/1e2131a96366e8441a6a8011389cc2a9448ef957/riverside_transfers.csv

Let's look at a few slices/dices of that data.  Between 1997 and today, there were 1,146 ownership-change (transfer) transactions recorded in ACRIS.  We'll start with a breakdown of the building ownership as of 1/1/2009, shortly before the Great Financial Crisis really kicked into high gear, and just prior to "Sleepy Joe's" investment company, the Biden Real Estate Holding Company LLC, began making investments in the Hudson Waterfront Companies.   Note that ACRIS provides limited buyer profile information in the transaction data.  For the purpose of our analysis we will focus primarily on "Entity" and "Asian" (mostly Chinese surnames) ownership classifications as described by the City of New York.


Here are a couple of things that jump out at us:

1.) After 11 years for 200 Riverside, 8 years for 220 Riverside and 4 years for 240 Riverside, total sponsor sales were 511 Units or 54% of the total 938 Units available for sale.

2.) Asian ownership was 121 units (13%) and Entity (ShellCo & LLC) ownership was 52 units (6%), representing 19% of project ownership.

3.) At the time, 714,688 sq/ft. at $1,187 per sq/ft, was sold.  If we extrapolate at 54% sold, we can estimate the total project value at $1.570 Billion.

4.) 240 Riverside, in just four years is 94% sold out, while 200 and 240 are still roughly half sold with 417 Units remaining in Hudson Waterfront Companies inventory.

5.) We don't know what the status of the unsold 427 Units (46%) really is.  Are they finished/rented?  If so, who's renting them?  Are they unfinished/held for resale?  Why are they unsold?  Is this part of the plan or are there economic limitations preventing the project from selling out?

Now let's fast forward 11 years to August 1st 2019.  The current status of the project has changed dramatically for the better and is described below:


Here are the bullet points.
  1. Based on current ownership unit purchase prices the project has a value of roughly $1.905 Billion.
  2. The project is 72% owned (675 units), with the remaining 263 units under management by the Hudson Waterfront Companies either to be rented or remain vacant.  They remain unsold, for whatever reason.
  3. 240 Riverside (the newest building) is "sold out".  100% owned by residents/investors, of which 39% are "Asian" and "Entity" owners.
  4.  72% of the entire project is "owned".  Asian buyers own 17% and entities (ShellCos & LLCs) own 11%.  
  5. 28% of the units remain unsold/managed/rented, roughly the same percentage as is owned by Asian and Entity owners. 
  6. African Americans apparently don't want to live there, for whatever reason.

Other Things We Know and Questions We Might Have....

1.) What might have caused the ownership mix to change so dramatically?  Asian and ShellCo ownership was at 173 Units (19%) on 1/1/2009 and it increased to 265 units (29%) as of 8/1/2019.

2.) Of the additional 164 units sold in the period from when "Sleepy Joe" got involved to just recently, a net of 92 of them (56%) were sold/transferred to Asian buyers and ShellCos/LLCs.  Why?  What is driving this phenomenon?

3.) We know, again with relative certainty, that the continued influx of Chinese Money (by definition directed and controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.....i.e.) Chinese people aren't allowed to invest millions of dollars overseas without explicit party sponsorship) not only dramatically contributed to the projects success, but I might also proffer that the absence of these buyers might have actually guaranteed the project's failure.

4.) We also know (with relative certainty) that during the time in question, the only bank providing the financing in this project, for whatever reason, was Deutsche Bank.

5.) Those of you who have followed my work know that I've long been critical of the "relationships" that Deutsche Bank has been cultivating over time, more precisely, my concerns over their deals with Russia's often/continually sanctioned VT Bank (money laundering, terrorism support and a plethora of failing to "know your customer" financial crimes) as well as their indirect involvement with China's SAFE (State Administration of Foreign Exchange) and SOE's as discussed in my prior post "How an ineffective Bill becomes an Ineffective Law..."    Today, HNA, China's fake SRE (State Run Enterprise) still owns 4% of Deutsche Bank, down from the nearly 10% they had acquired in 2017, making HNA (and by extension, the Chinese Communist Party) Deutsche Bank's largest shareholder at the time.  Again, presumably, the CPC has had significant influence over Deutsche Bank's management decisions and capital deployment for quite sometime.  Further, just thinking out loud here, but you'd think that having "Sleepy Joe", the Vice President of the United States of America as a grateful benefactor of your largess regarding the struggling Riverside Boulevard Project might just have some real financial and political value to the CPC at some point down the road.  

6.) It would also not be a stretch to believe that the odd concentration of these investments (several hundred million dollars in this project) made by the agents of and at the behest and direction Chinese Communist Party were done solely to generate and influence an "Emolumental" relationship with the Vice President of the United States and the White House at the time.  We can still see evidence of this in "Sleepy Joe's" pro-China, "they are not a threat" to us rhetoric, on the campaign trail today.


I might even argue that a Biden campaign would be at a minimum "cheered on" by the Chinese Communist Party, as well as, even more likely, the recipient of some additional passive or even active "emolumental" Party support.  When you really think about it, and listen to his message, why the hell else would he be running?

More Chinese Communist Party Pressure on "Sleepy Joe"....  

I'm not going to bother rehashing the odd, global, Ukrainian/Russian and Chinese related dalliances of Hunter Biden here, Adam Entous did an admirable, more than capable job of that a few months ago, but could you imagine being the Vice President of the United States, not only having to work to keep the Chinese Communist Party in your corner on your NYC Real Estate Investments, but having to simultaneously deal with, deflect and field media and investigator questions about the out of control behavior and chronic bad/illegal/fraudster decision making process of your son, who you love, involved in the following on a daily/public basis:

1.) Hunter Biden's acceptance of a 2.8 Carat diamond from a Chinese energy tycoon, Ye Jianming.  Mr. Jianming had hoped that Hunter might "use his contacts" to help identify investment opportunities for Ye’s company, CEFC China Energy, in liquefied-natural-gas projects in the United States.  More likely, these gifts were intended to pressure him to coerce his Vice President Dad to "get with the program".  

2.) Hunter's efforts to openly, bravely beat a drug/alcohol addiction as he makes his way through his life.

3.) Hunter and Jimmy Biden's ill-fated, fiasco-like dealings with Paridigm Partners, a failed hedge fund, putting them deeply in debt due to investment losses and legal fees.

4.) Hunter's involvement in Seneca Global Advisors and Rosemont Seneca Partners, pitching small and mid-sized business on "opening up global markets", or perhaps a thinly veiled vehicle to make a few bucks off of presumed White House access.

5.) Hunter's relationship with Jonathan Li and Bohai Capital, again with a goal of investing Chinese funds in US Businesses, eventually creating BHR Partners where Hunter became an unpaid member of BHR’s board.  Hunter apparently did not take an ownership interest in BHR Partners until after his father left the White House, in an apparent attempt to bolster the appearance that there are "no emoluments to see here".

6.) Hunter's Relationship, through Rosemont Realty with Mykola Zlochevsky and Burisma, one of Ukraine’s largest natural-gas producers.  Hunter was made a Burisma board member in 2014, while the Obama Administration was ostensibly cracking down on Russian and Ukranian Corruption, including investigations of Bursima.  The idea that the Biden's son could ethically maintain a board seat while simultaneously directing contracts and funding, on an organization under investigation for corruption by his own White House is preposterous at best.    

7.) The eventual collapse of the CEFC "Monkey Island deal" following Mr. Ye's arrest.


8.) In 2017, Mr. Ye (from the "diamond" note  #1 and the "monkey island" note #7) asked Hunter to represent one of his associates, Patrick Ho. Hunter, who also works as a private lawyer, agreed to represent Ho, and tried to determine whether Ho was in legal jeopardy in the U.S.  Apparently, Mr. Ho was indeed in jeopardy since, just after Ye and Hunter agreed on the Monkey Island deal, U.S. authorities arrested Ho. Mr. Ho was later sentenced to three years in prison for his role in a multiyear, multimillion-dollar scheme to bribe top government officials in Chad and Uganda in exchange for business advantages for CEFC. 

Based on the above, it's clear that Hunter Biden was either one of the worst judges of character and veracity in history, or had no problem with using his father's position to make a few bucks.  I would also imagine that Joe had a hard time, and I'd say, failed miserably, at keeping Hunter on the straight and narrow.  Emoluments all around!

Rudy Giuliani did a great job the other night on CNN taking nearly a half an hour of air time to cogently describe the issues above to Chris Cuomo.....here's the abbreviated, bullet point version:



On further review, the only thing we really learned from this painful exchange is that Rudy should no longer be allowed to play with scissors in the West Wing or run with sharp objects on the White House lawn.


Putting It All Together....

What's been going on in our country, for decades, is about as removed from the intent and aspirations of the framers of our Constitution as could possibly be imagined.  A functioning Democracy, the shunning of "emoluments" in favor of a government of/for/by the people, as envisioned by America's forefathers/mothers has given way to political alliances, special interests and "money talks" legislation and enforcement, heretofore thought to be unimaginable by any reasonable, unbiased observer of  political history.  The corruption and apparently legalized pay to play has progressed from an envelope or two of "Joe Kennedy Cash" to buy a few votes in a rural swing state/district to complex networks of international, communist funded SOEs, SREs and syndicates financing triads, "think tanks", PACs, media campaigns and untraceable shell company investment into virtually every financial and political arena, where the sole purpose of the endeavor is to advance some form of systemic elitism and/or authoritarian domination with the inescapable, inevitable consequence being the destruction of democracy as we know it.   

It seems that today, no party, business, financier, politician, legislator, executive or thinker is immune to this rapidly metastasizing disease.  It's always been hard to turn down a free lunch, now we've come to the point where we don't even care or ask who's picking up the tab.  It's become perfectly acceptable to take a seat at the banquet table and finish the meal with no questions asked.  Again, this isn't a Republican, Democrat, business or labor problem...."taking the money" has become endemic in our society.  We've accepted, as a people, and by design, that for certain classes of untouchable leadership, regardless of political affiliation or party, a "free lunch" is acceptable.  Apparently, since everyone is doing it, it's no longer a "party" problem or an occasional isolated instance, it's gone systemic and has become a uniquely American problem.  Politicians can't address corruption and "emoluments" by their brethren because it's likely they themselves are the beneficiaries of same......and our very Democracy is threatened because of it.         



CORRECTION:  There are many, many reasons why Joe Biden should not hold public office, much less the Presidency of the United States of America, but the "Riverside Boulevard Project" is not one of them.  For those of you who know anything about New York City Real Estate you've probably already deduced that "Sleepy Joe" has nothing to do with the Riverside Boulevard Project.  200/220/240 Riverside are actually all Trump Properties.  The "Asian" and "LLC" ownership and financing data is all accurate, but it's a Trump emolument, not a Biden emolument. The point of this exercise is, that, this pay-to-play and influence peddling cancer is running amok in our government.  Party affiliation, polls and popularity doesn't/shouldn't matter when determining whether there are emoluments and Foreign Corrupt Practices violations that put the very foundation of democracy at risk.




Moreover, as I've mentioned before in a prior post, the pattern repeats with one of my other favorite, nearly failed real estate projects (Trump Tower Chicago, 401 N Wacker Dr.) where there are no units listed above the 49th floor on the Cook County Assessors Website, even thought there are 254 Units shown on the floor plan. I've also noticed that the lobby and elevators, like the Trump Riverside Buildings, have a disturbingly, almost unnaturally-high percentage of occupants with a "First language other than English" i.e.) Chinese and Russian visitors and occupants.  Perhaps some enterprising journalist or investigator who knows the ropes on the inner workings of the Cook County Assessors office might be able to get the bottom of it.        

Finally, these deal structures are, of course, built and are sufficiently complex to make the discovery of a conspiracy and the resulting "emoluments" nearly impossible to detect and prove. But there is no question in my mind, that all of the above, regardless of party politics or affiliation, absolutely flunks the smell test.

So we've determined above that the Chinese Communist Party likely exercises significant leverage over the Trump White House through financial incentives connected to his finances, banking relationships and Real Estate Projects. If you really, honestly examine this "Reality TV" Presidency, you'll quickly conclude that there have been no policies implemented that have either materially benefited American interests and/or adversely impacted China.

The ineffective tariffs, never-ending trade talks, benign financial/monetary policy, destruction of agreements and relationship infrastructure like NAFTA and the TPP, cozying up to Putin and Autocrats while abandoning and destroying relationships with long time NATO allies, Hong Kong indifference, increased Chinese IMF and MCI inclusion, the unregulated/unabated/unrelenting "Dollar Grab" with a fake closed RMB, continued SEC tolerance of absurd, unregulatable VIE listings on US Exchanges (Currently about US$2.3 Trillion) ,etc. etc. are all either "Wag the Dog" distractions or well designed, camouflaged efforts to directly benefit and support Chinese global interests and isolate America. If I were to design a plan to destroy a democracy this would be the prototype.

Biden's political and strategic weakness, of course, is his above described "known or should have known" relationship with, and fatherly instincts to protect, his less than cerebral, prodigal son who couldn't make a good decision if it came gift wrapped and left on his front porch. Moreover, Joe's misplaced "hold over" trust and affinity from the good old days, for China's unlikely, thirty year Trojan Horse transition to globalism with "Chinese Characteristics" is only exceeded in deficiency by his obvious inability to recognize what's truly unfolding around him. As I've said, Joe, you are a great guy and a wonderful, caring father, but you should not be the next President of the United States, even though the Chinese Communist Party would likely be fine with the presumed continuation of your Obama era pro-China administration and policy.

Worst case, if I am indeed correct, it would seem that the Chinese Communist Party actually owns (or at least has significant influence over) the two leading horses, Trump and Biden, in what's shaping up to be a two horse race for the Presidency. The CPC has positioned itself so that they can't possibly lose.

Personally, I believe that our founding fathers might have preferred that the bar for our elected officials today should be far higher than:

"We couldn't actually prove he/she is a criminal, and/or we don't want to upset our dumb-ass base, which has been manipulated by foreign actors with our permission and at our request, but he/she is still our guy/gal....so anything he/she does is OK"



America deserves better than that.



Other Fun Reading...
Deutsche Bank - Loan to vt bankhttps://www.wsj.com/articles/deutsche-bank-in-late-2016-raced-to-shed-loan-it-made-to-russian-bank-vtb-11549147289
https://www.heritage.org/constitution/#!/articles/1/essays/68/emoluments-clause
VT BANK - us treasury sanctionshttps://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/pages/jl2590.aspx
Appeals Court Dismisses Emoluments Suit due to standinghttps://www.washingtonpost.com/local/legal-issues/appeals-court-dismisses-
emoluments-lawsuit-involving-president-trumps-dc-hotel/2019/07/10/4a4b6190-886e-11e9-98c1-e945ae5db8fb_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.1a7df7d746dd
vt bank - eu sanctionshttps://www.reuters.com/article/us-russia-eu-ukraine-sanctions/eu-court-upholds-eu-sanctions-vs-russian-banks-companies-over-ukraine-crisis-idUSKCN1LT185
Democrat's emolument's Casehttps://www.washingtonpost.com/context/federal-court-opinion-on-trump-emoluments-case-brought-by-democrats/bf8ea41e-6cb7-4425-85ba-657f4fc11e60/?utm_term=.1867b52af2b6
hna acquires deutsche bank stake and majority stake in scaramucci's skybridge capitalhttp://www.chinadaily.com.cn/business/2017-02/21/content_28278046.htm
Initial Emoluments Complaint - Blumenthol vs Trump
https://www.theusconstitution.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Blumenthal_v_Trump_DDC_Original_Complaint_Final.pdf

Delaware Secretary of State - Name Search
https://icis.corp.delaware.gov/Ecorp/EntitySearch/NameSearch.aspx

Biden - Politico
https://www.politico.com/story/2019/03/18/joe-biden-2020-money-wealth-1221934

Hunder Biden - Diamond Interview
https://www.msnbc.com/morning-joe/watch/hunter-biden-opens-up-about-addiction-in-new-interview-63031365709

FARA
https://www.justice.gov/nsd-fara

All FARA Docs
https://asbcllc.com/trelliscopes/fara/all_filings/index.html

New Yorker - Adam Entous - Hunter Biden Article/Interview and excerpts

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/07/08/will-hunter-biden-jeopardize-his-fathers-campaign

In 2006, Hunter and his uncle Jimmy Biden, along with another partner, entered into a twenty-one-million-dollar deal to buy Paradigm, a hedge-fund group that claimed to manage $1.5 billion in assets. Hunter said that the deal sounded “super attractive,” but that it fell apart after he and Jimmy learned that the company was worth less than they thought, and that the lawyer they were working with was a convicted felon awaiting sentencing. Hunter and Jimmy, who together went on to buy a stake in the company, estimated that they lost at least $1.3 million on the initial venture, which Hunter described as “a tragicomedy.” To help repay a law firm that had put up the money to initiate the transaction, Hunter obtained a million-dollar note against his house from Washington First Bank, which was co-founded by Oldaker. On January 5, 2007, two days before Biden announced his decision to run for President, Hunter and Jimmy were sued by their former partner in New York. The suit was settled but resulted in a flurry of headlines.

In September, 2008, Hunter launched a boutique consulting firm, Seneca Global Advisors, named for the largest of the Finger Lakes, in New York State, where his mother had grown up. In pitch meetings with prospective clients, Hunter said that he could help small and mid-sized companies expand into markets in the U.S. and other countries. In June, 2009, five months after Joe Biden became Vice-President, Hunter co-founded a second company, Rosemont Seneca Partners, with Christopher Heinz, Senator John Kerry’s stepson and an heir to the food-company fortune, and Devon Archer, a former Abercrombie & Fitch model who started his finance career at Citibank in Asia and who had been friends with Heinz at Yale. (Heinz and Archer already had a private-equity fund called Rosemont Capital.) Heinz believed that Hunter would share his aversion to entering into business deals that could attract public scrutiny, but over time Hunter and Archer seized opportunities that did not include Heinz, who was less inclined to take risks.

In 2012, Archer and Hunter talked to Jonathan Li, who ran a Chinese private-equity fund, Bohai Capital, about becoming partners in a new company that would invest Chinese capital—and, potentially, capital from other countries—in companies outside China. In June, 2013, Li, Archer, and other business partners signed a memorandum of understanding to create the fund, which they named BHR Partners, and, in November, they signed contracts related to the deal. Hunter became an unpaid member of BHR’s board but did not take an equity stake in BHR Partners until after his father left the White House.

In December, 2013, Vice-President Biden flew to Beijing to meet with President Xi Jinping. Biden often asked one of his grandchildren to accompany him on his international trips, and he invited Finnegan to come on this one. Hunter told his father that he wanted to join them. According to a Beijing-based BHR representative, Hunter, shortly after arriving in Beijing, on December 4th, helped arrange for Li to shake hands with his father in the lobby of the American delegation’s hotel. Afterward, Hunter and Li had what both parties described as a social meeting. Hunter told me that he didn’t understand why anyone would have been concerned about this. “How do I go to Beijing, halfway around the world, and not see them for a cup of coffee?” he said.

For another venture, Archer travelled to Kiev to pitch investors on a real-estate fund he managed, Rosemont Realty. There, he met Mykola Zlochevsky, the co-founder of Burisma, one of Ukraine’s largest natural-gas producers. Zlochevsky had served as ecology minister under the pro-Russian government of Viktor Yanukovych. After public protests in 2013 and early 2014, the Ukrainian parliament had voted to remove Yanukovych and called for his arrest. Under the new Ukrainian government, authorities in Kiev, with the encouragement of the Obama Administration, launched an investigation into whether Zlochevsky had used his cabinet position to grant exploration licenses that benefitted Burisma. (The status of the inquiry is unclear, but no proof of criminal activity has been publicly disclosed. Zlochevsky could not be reached for comment, and Burisma did not respond to queries.) In a related investigation, which was ultimately closed owing to a lack of evidence, British authorities temporarily froze U.K. bank accounts tied to Zlochevsky.

In early 2014, Zlochevsky sought to assemble a high-profile international board to oversee Burisma, telling prospective members that he wanted the company to adopt Western standards of transparency. Among the board members he recruited was a former President of Poland, Aleksander Kwaśniewski, who had a reputation as a dedicated reformer. In early 2014, at Zlochevsky’s suggestion, Kwaśniewski met with Archer in Warsaw and encouraged him to join Burisma’s board, arguing that the company was critical to Ukraine’s independence from Russia. Archer agreed.

When Archer told Hunter that the board needed advice on how to improve the company’s corporate governance, Hunter recommended the law firm Boies Schiller Flexner, where he was “of counsel.” The firm brought in the investigative agency Nardello & Co. to assess Burisma’s history of corruption. Hunter joined Archer on the Burisma board in April, 2014. Three months later, in a draft report to Boies Schiller, Nardello said that it was “unable to identify any information to date regarding any current government investigation into Zlochevsky or Burisma,” but cited unnamed sources saying that Zlochevsky could be “vulnerable to investigation for financial crimes” and for “perceived abuse of power.”

Vice-President Biden was playing a central role in overseeing U.S. policy in Ukraine, and took the lead in calling on Kiev to fight rampant corruption. On May 13, 2014, after Hunter’s role on the Burisma board was reported in the news, Jen Psaki, a State Department spokesperson, said that the State Department was not concerned about perceived conflicts of interest, because Hunter was a “private citizen.” Hunter told Burisma’s management and other board members that he would not be involved in any matters that were connected to the U.S. government or to his father. Kwaśniewski told me, “We never discussed how the Vice-President can help us. Frankly speaking, we didn’t need such help.”

Several former officials in the Obama Administration and at the State Department insisted that Hunter’s role at Burisma had no effect on his father’s policies in Ukraine, but said that, nevertheless, Hunter should not have taken the board seat. As the former senior White House aide put it, there was a perception that “Hunter was on the loose, potentially undermining his father’s message.” The same aide said that Hunter should have recognized that at least some of his foreign business partners were motivated to work with him because they wanted “to be able to say that they are affiliated with Biden.” A former business associate said, “The appearance of a conflict of interest is good enough, at this level of politics, to keep you from doing things like that.”

In December, 2015, as Joe Biden prepared to return to Ukraine, his aides braced for renewed scrutiny of Hunter’s relationship with Burisma. Amos Hochstein, the Obama Administration’s special envoy for energy policy, raised the matter with Biden, but did not go so far as to recommend that Hunter leave the board. As Hunter recalled, his father discussed Burisma with him just once: “Dad said, ‘I hope you know what you are doing,’ and I said, ‘I do.’ ”

Hunter said that, in divorce proceedings, he offered to give Kathleen “everything,” including a monthly payment of thirty-seven thousand dollars for alimony, tuition, and child-care costs for a decade. Hunter told me that he was living on approximately four thousand dollars a month; he was hardly poor, but it was an adjustment. On occasion, transactions on his credit cards were declined.

One of Kathleen’s motions contains a reference to “a large diamond” that had come into Hunter’s possession. The motion seems to imply that it was one of Hunter’s “personal indulgences.” When I asked him about it, he told me that he had been given the diamond by the Chinese energy tycoon Ye Jianming, who was trying to make connections in Washington among prominent Democrats and Republicans, and whom he had met in the middle of the divorce. Hunter told me that two associates accompanied him to his first meeting with Ye, in Miami, and that they surprised him by giving Ye a magnum of rare vintage Scotch worth thousands of dollars.

Hunter was on the board of the World Food Program USA, a nonprofit that generates support for the U.N. World Food Programme, and he had hoped that Ye would make a large aid donation. At dinner that night, they discussed the donation, and then the conversation turned to business opportunities. Hunter offered to use his contacts to help identify investment opportunities for Ye’s company, CEFC China Energy, in liquefied-natural-gas projects in the United States. 

After the dinner, Ye sent a 2.8-carat diamond to Hunter’s hotel room with a card thanking him for their meeting. “I was, like, Oh, my God,” Hunter said. (In Kathleen’s court motion, the diamond is estimated to be worth eighty thousand dollars. Hunter said he believes the value is closer to ten thousand.) When I asked him if he thought the diamond was intended as a bribe, he said no: “What would they be bribing me for? My dad wasn’t in office.” Hunter said that he gave the diamond to his associates, and doesn’t know what they did with it. “I knew it wasn’t a good idea to take it. I just felt like it was weird,” he said.

Hunter began negotiating a deal for CEFC to invest forty million dollars in a liquefied-natural-gas project on Monkey Island, in Louisiana, which, he said, was projected to create thousands of jobs. “I was more proud of it than you can imagine,” he told me. In the summer of 2017, Ye talked with Hunter about his concern that U.S. law-enforcement agencies were investigating one of his associates, Patrick Ho. Hunter, who sometimes works as a private lawyer, agreed to represent Ho, and tried to figure out whether Ho was in legal jeopardy in the U.S. That November, just after Ye and Hunter agreed on the Monkey Island deal, U.S. authorities detained Ho at the airport. He was later sentenced to three years in prison for his role in a multiyear, multimillion-dollar scheme to bribe top government officials in Chad and Uganda in exchange for business advantages for CEFC. In February, 2018, Ye was detained by Chinese authorities, reportedly as part of an anti-corruption investigation, and the deal with Hunter fell through. Hunter said that he did not consider Ye to be a “shady character at all,” and characterized the outcome as “bad luck.”

Biden’s approach was to deal with Hunter’s activities by largely ignoring them. This may have temporarily allowed Biden to truthfully inform reporters that his decisions were not affected by Hunter. But, as Robert Weissman, the president of the advocacy group Public Citizen, said, “It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Hunter’s foreign employers and partners were seeking to leverage Hunter’s relationship with Joe, either by seeking improper influence or to project access to him.”

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

The BABA Investor Call.......Trade War?...What Trade War?

As I've been doing every quarter since the BABA IPO back in September of 2014, I've taken the time to listen to Thursday morning's investor call, review the presentation and read the press release and 6K for this financial dumpster fire.  For me, like driving past a bad car accident on the freeway, it's difficult and painful to see, but for some reason, I can't bring myself to look away.

The relevant links to same are listed directly below for your own personal amusement and/or self-abuse.

PRESS RELEASE
https://www.alibabagroup.com/en/news/press_pdf/p190815.pdf

PRESENTATION
https://www.alibabagroup.com/en/ir/presentations/pre190815.pdf

WEBCAST
https://edge.media-server.com/mmc/p/8fyipmop

CALL TRANSCRIPT
https://finance.yahoo.com/news/alibaba-group-holding-limited-baba-163122944.html

SEC Filing - 6K
https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1577552/000110465919046150/a19-17229_1ex99d1.htm

SEC Filing - 20F
https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1577552/000104746919003492/a2238953z20-f.htm

I must say, that before we dive headlong into this looking glass, that I feel I do some of my most introspective work from the deck/cabin of a sailboat, where I wrote/researched/pondered much what I wrote over the weekend.  The serenity and peace of being on the water cleanses and soothes me as I force myself to delve into this maelstrom of accounting rule abuse.  Here are a few  pictures from the weekend....




















For those of you new to this "Alibaba Investor Call" reality show, the format for these quarterly extravaganzas is generally the same.  They open up with a motivational speech by Joe Tsai, describing the nearly boundless, macro opportunities that are just waiting to jump into the lap of every US investor, if they are just bold enough and wise enough to get aboard this unstoppable Chinese Communist express train to riches.

Next Daniel Zhang stumbles and bumbles through some brand new made up metrics for a few minutes and Maggie spends some time going through the fake financial statements.

The call ends with a few analysts displaying their adoration for management genius, extolling their virtues and asking some irrelevant "if you were a tree...what kind of tree would you be?" questions.

In this particular call:

Eddie Leung - Bank of America Merrill Lynch asked about "user engagement in less developed markets" and "synergies"

Piyush Mubayi - Goldman Sachs asked about the "Internet of Things" and "5G"

Alicia Yap Citigroup asked about the T-Mall Flagship store 2.0 upgrade and "monetization"

Grace Chen - Morgan Stanley  asked about "Margin Performance"  (Maggie said it was fine)

Binnie Wong - HSBC asked about the "strong top line growth"

Gregory Zhao - Barclays Capital  asked about monetization in lower tier cities, efficiencies and priorities.

Jerry Liu - UBS  apparently believes he works for Alibaba since he discussed "our investments that we've done so far this year " and he is  "wondering if there's more monitization we can continue to do to continue this trend".  I, for one, think that it's wonderful that Jerry is so helpful.  He's a part of the team.  "Great quarter guys!

Now, if you have no financial background, have a love of buzzwords and can't tell a "Balance Sheet" from "Balance Shit" these quarterly calls are for you!  The above questions were actually a poorly disguised trailer-load-of-irrelevant-flaming-financial-turd-softballs of misdirection aimed at all of the starry-eyed China bulls looking to buy the dip, but, in today's Topsy-Turvy financial world,  this is what Alibaba's, and dare I say, securities "analysis" in general, has become.

I'm sure that the questions flying at Eddie, Piyush, Alicia, Grace, Binnie. Greg and Jerry during the inevitable Congressional hearings will be a bit more pointed than those they chose to lob at Alibaba management, but I digress.  It is what it is.....

What Wasn't discussed in the Investor Call?

I actually think this is much more important than the info in the call.  Here we go.

1.) Alibaba's "Core" Revenue (despite reporting 42% YOY combined growth) is probably in decline

Alibaba has been "buying" and consolidating revenue increases for years.  Since there were no new acquisitions in the quarter, as described in the 6/30/19 6-K, we can assume that significant revenue increases are due to continued "step acquisitions" as described in the 20-F.  When we examine Footnote 4 of the that document we see that there is a long list of these step acquisitions where a significant measure of Revenue wasn't available or allowed to be reported in the June, 2018 Quarter 20-F.  Now that the company has completed additional "steps" they are able to include/consolidate this revenue.  Of course, the actual consolidated revenues are no longer disclosed or described for these businesses in the filings.

Note that there is also a US$1.1 Billion dollar "other" investment which might be a lucrative source of increased reported revenue.  Unfortunately, we just can't tell.

Again, BABA Management and accountants, and for that matter, every entity controlled by the Chinese Communist Party, all have a long history of liberal use of accounting methods, misrepresentation and improper application of accounting/disclosure rules to goose revenue over the years.  Although we can't tell for certain, by design, since there is no disclosure of the revenue impact for the current quarter for any of these step acquisitions during the prior year, we would suspect that based on the amount of US Shareholder Capital deployed to accomplish these insider driven boondoggles that it must be substantial.

https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1577552/000104746919003492/a2238953z20-f.htm

Moreover, nearly every third party (Non-CPC published) metric, whether it be new car sales, electricity usage, retail spending, etc. is contracting (check any Western source).   Alibaba is apparently, according to their numbers, impervious to an economic slow down, trade war, recession or any economic trade winds whatsoever.  It defies logic that BABA is somehow generating organic double-digit YOY growth anywhere near what they are claiming without their typical use of accounting Shenanigans.

2.) Operating Margins and Income from Operations are actually on the decline as well

As any senior financial person knows, producing quarterly statements in a struggling organization is an iterative process.  It goes something like this:

1.) The Accounting department produces the "first pass" numbers and presents them to management.
2.) Management's reaction is that "we can't show those numbers to anyone" go back and find a way to fix them.
3.) The accounting department scours the relevant accounting literature and regulations and solicits advice from their public accounts as to what they might be able to get away with, fully intending to stretch the limits of both the meaning of the rules and the spirit of the profession.
4.) Eventually, they come up with some sort of scheme generally involving the capitalization of expenditures that should have been expensed, thus deferring the expenses to future accounting periods and boosting current period profits.
5.) Depending on how aggressive the effort and how gutless the public accounting firm, the accounting team can come up with some miraculous profit/margin improvements quite quickly.
6.) Remember, for a financial professional, success is not dependent on how reasonable the adjustments are, but more so on the ability of the professional to defend it and explain it under oath with a straight face. 

Here's what the Alibaba accounting team did this quarter.  There are two things we can identify with relative certainty:

The first is the use of an older (2016) FASB Accounting Standard Update that they must have just stumbled across.

Press Release: (pg.23)

(1) We adopted ASU 2016-02, “Leases (Topic 842)” beginning in the first quarter of fiscal year 2020 using the modified retrospective method and no adjustments are made to the comparative periods. Adoption of the standard resulted in the recognition of operating lease right-of-use assets of approximately RMB24.9 billion and operating lease liabilities of approximately RMB19.4 billion on the consolidated balance sheet as of April 1, 2019. Operating lease right-of-use assets are included in non-current prepayments, receivables and other assets, and operating lease liabilities are included in current accrued expenses, accounts payable and other liabilities and other non-current liabilities on the consolidated balance sheets. 

The net impact of adopting this accounting change is to increase "Non-Current Prepayments, Receivables and Other Assets" by $3.64 Billion with an associated improvement of $803 Million to Income from Operations in the current quarter.  They don't exactly spell it out, do they?  Actually, I'm surprised they disclosed anything at all.

As an aside, and just as interesting, according to the footnote, they booked the lease "Asset" entirely as long term, but the payment of the lease obligation is mostly "current"....so the payment is due this year, but the most of the value of these "assets" is to be amortized over a period of years.

The second accounting gimmick can be defined as a "generally more aggressive improvement in accounting department attitude".  i.e.) Coming up with creative ways to prevent expenses from hitting the bottom line.  Thanks to the miracle of double entry bookkeeping, when you prevent expenses from hitting profits, either asset values must increase (most popular) or liabilities must be understated (less popular...because the people you owe the money to, generally catch on and complain vociferously).  Otherwise, without either effort (pumped asset values or missed liabilities) the books don't "balance".

Somehow the Alibaba accounting department, I'm sure championed by Maggie, implemented some sort of a plan to prevent the expenditure of money they've pissed away from hitting the bottom line.  My guess is that there was a systemic push by Maggie, in each and every one of the now 1,300 consolidated operating entities, to try to determine which expenditures just might benefit future periods and therefore could be capitalized rather than expensed.  Somehow, the Alibaba accounting department managed to book an increase in both long term and current "Prepayments, Receivables and Other" by $4.532 Billion in just six months, after the figure had been relatively rock-solid at about US$11 Billion for more than a year.  Note that the ASU 2016-02, “Leases (Topic 842)” adjustment accounts for US$3.64 Billion of this "improvement" alone The rest, my friends, a total of $15.956 Billion now, is a hell of a lot of prepaid postage and office supplies.







Actually, perhaps Grace Chen may have realized how implausible it might have been for margins and operating income to double as a percent of revenue in one quarter for an enterprise the size of Alibaba, so she asked about it in the Q&A.  Here's her question and Maggie's response.

Grace Chen -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst
Thank you. Thank you very much for taking my call. In this call, it's very encouraging to see Alibaba's strong margin performance, so it would be great if management could elaborate a bit more about what efforts management has done to help improve the margin performance, especially in core commerce and digital media and entertainment, and where we're going to see the strong margin performance will continue in the following quarters. Congratulations. Thank you.
Maggie Wu -- Chief Financial Officer
Thank you, Grace, for the question. Let me elaborate on what we have done to bring out operating efficiency. First of all, the revenue growth is very strong. That's obviously coming from -- driven by user growth, and also, all of our efforts on user experience enhancement have paid off. Now, when you look at the costs and expenditures, we started late last year emphasizing on all of the efficiency of this spending, not only on the marketing, but also on the headcount (Author's Note: Headcount increased by 1,748 people from the last quarter), the accountants, et cetera. So, we do have specific measures to the team to review and measure the ROI of this spending. That's No. 1.
No. 2 is that we have seen so much synergy coming out of not only Alibaba Group, but also a synergy with our sister company. So, things like marketing spending -- we're targeting another 200-300 million of potential users -- consumers -- coming to our platform. So, this is also the target of Ant Financial, and this is where we can work together. They are good at acquiring consumers in the lower-tier cities, and Taobao is good at retaining these consumers so that we don't have to spend it twice. It's a very effective way of doing the marketing on the core users. I hope that helps.
Oh, DME -- you see the negative margins get narrowed, so, 65% negative margin from last year and 35%. Actually, there was a one-off last year, which was the World Cup spending, so if you take that out, last year's negative EBITA margin would have been somewhere around 42%, but still down by a lot. I think the DME negative margin narrowing is mainly coming from our discipline on the spending, particularly in the content spending.
Based on the accounting shenanigans I described above, when I heard Maggie's response, the unprecedented level of lameness actually convulsed me.  My gag reflex kicked in and I did everything I could to keep from puking on my laptop.  
Let's be clear, Maggie is the Chief Financial Officer of this mess.  She is either the most incompetent, clueless financial person in history (doubtful) or, more probably, the criminal mastermind of this poorly constructed and relatively obvious financial fraud.
Deploying our patented Dick Fuld Banker Speak Translator (BST) here's how Maggie really meant to answer Grace's question if she were fully transparent:
Maggie Wu -- Chief Financial Officer
Thank you, Grace, for the question. Yes, it's true, our margins have improved at an unbelievable pace through this last quarter.  We are brilliant accounting professionals to be sure. The improvement is due primarily from our analysis of all the money we've wasted building software, marketing, kickbacks and dumb-ass projects that just don't work, probably never will and are not yet being used by anybody.  Since it's so cutting edge, we've determined that, even though it's "useless shit" (technical term) right now, we've capitalized all of the costs, payroll and kickbacks associated with these projects because, by definition, if these payments don't benefit the business in the current quarter, they will surely benefit the business sometime in the future.  In any event, we are amortizing the cost of all of these tiny, immaterial projects scattered over our 1,300 consolidating operating entities (so PWC can't possibly figure this out) over 5 years rather than expense these costs in the current period, as we had been incorrectly doing in prior quarters.  Lucky we caught it!  Also, Joe told me that I had to "hit the number or else my next vacation will be in Xinjiang" so we came up with this cockamamie crock of steaming turds of an accounting change, ran it by PWC, increased their fees and just hope that dumb-ass US Investors don't catch on to what we're doing.  Anyway, I'm safe in China so if that ungrateful bastard Jay Clayton has any problem with what we're doing, after all of the fees we paid him at Sullivan & Cromwell, he and his SEC and that pain int the ass FBI can stick their subpoenas "where the sun don't shine".  

Next question? 
That said, as described in the schedule below, when we compare the June, 2019 to the March 2019 and the June, 2018 quarters, reversing the accounting adjustment for the Capitalized leases and the unreasonable increases in "Prepayments, Receivables and Other" costs of unknown origin, which were likely capitalized rather than expensed, we can conclude that Alibaba is actually making very little money from operations.  "Income from Operations" is reduced to roughly 3% of Revenue and there's a good chance, based on the continued, expected lack of veracity of their filings, even this figure is probably still overstated.

















3.) The "Gravy Train" to Communist Party Insiders Continues
It's not often you see a business loan hundreds of millions of dollars of US Shareholder money to a Chinese Communist Party member, but incredibly, Alibaba has done it not once, but twice.  The first time was the Simon Xie debacle, where, after running afoul of the SEC for making a direct loan to Simon, BABA restructured the loan and purchased US$1.1 Billion of wealth management products to be pledged as collateral for an unnamed Chinese bank to make the loan to Simon in order to purchase a controlling interest in Wasu Media (Which Alibaba also has an undeterminable ownership position through another partnership controlled by Jack Ma and Yuzhu Shi) is described on pages 42 & 202 of the 2019 20-F.  This is of course, ongoing with Alibaba advancing Simon additional money to pay interest on the outstanding loan.  To be frank, that's never a good sign.      
The most recent US$ 730 Million dollar loan (@6.85:1) to a Chinese Communist Party member occurred just a few months ago in March of this year.  The transaction is described below in footnote 4(k) of the 20F.

(k)  STO Express Co., Ltd. ("STO Express")
    STO Express, a company that is listed on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange, is one of the leading express delivery services companies in the PRC. In March 2019, the Company made a loan to the controlling shareholder of STO Express with a principal amount of RMB5.0 billion for a term of three years. The controlling shareholder of STO Express has pledged a portion of its equity interest in STO Express in relation to the loan. The loan is accounted for at amortized cost and is recorded under investment securities (Note 11) on the consolidated balance sheets.
    In addition, the Company entered into a share purchase agreement to acquire a 49% equity interest in an investment vehicle to be established by the controlling shareholder, which will hold a 29.9% equity interest in STO Express for a cash consideration of RMB4.7 billion. The completion of this transaction is subject to customary closing conditions.

Here's the current chart for STO (below).  The company currently has a market cap of RMB 34 Billion (US$ 4.85 Billion)  Although the filing is silent on who this RMB 5 Billion loan is made to, the primary suspect would be De Jun Chen , Chairman and General manager of STO.  According to Bloomberg he's been on the job as Chairman for two and a half years.  My guess would be that he's also a well connected Communist Party Member (Again, presuming that the only way to accumulate wealth in China is through the Party) and MarketScreener reports his net worth to be roughly US$2.1 Billion with virtually all of it tied up in STO.



Here's what we know about Mr. Chen...


As with so many things endemic to these Chinese businesses, there's a certain level of uncomfortable weirdness associated with this enterprise, for example, they've established odd regional, global shipping offices, in seemingly random places like......






































That's right....VEGAS (and Peoria) BABY!

As far as I can tell, these are the only US locations.  There are no US Locations listed on the STO.cn website.  I tried to check for US locations on the STOExpress.us site over a period of a few days, but the website was always down.  Totally understandable....these things happen all the time at FedEX and UPS and since STO probably runs on BABA cloud servers we can also probably expect some access interruption, our computers to be occasionally infected or our identities to be stolen from time to time.....but again, I digress.


When this deal was first announced, oddly enough, the press release didn't mention anything about the RMB 5 Billion (US$730 Million @6.85:1) loan to a Communist Party Member to fund the purchase.  The Reuters headline simply read:

"Alibaba invests $693 million for stake in Chinese courier STO Express"

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-sto-alibaba/alibaba-invests-693-million-for-stake-in-chinese-courier-sto-express-idUSKBN1QS0D8

So here's what we really have:

Alibaba took $730 million of US Shareholder Money and loaned it to a CPC Member, so he could create a brand new unnamed ShellCo, which will hold/acquire a 29.9% stake in STO.  Further, Alibaba agreed to buy 49% of this brand new entity for RMB 4.7 Billion (US$686 Million)

If we do the math, when this transaction is completed, Alibaba will have paid US$686 Million for a 14.65% minority stake (29.9% x 49%) in STO which is currently worth $711 Million today.....not too bad, except that they've also allegedly "invested" $730 million in the loan (terms undisclosed) to Mr. Chen.  Moreover, if we examine the chart above, we note that the value of STO Express was roughly a third less than it is now just a few months ago (i.e. it was worth US$470 Million before the Alibaba investment was announced and Chinese shareholders assigned the "CPC Stamp of Approval Premium" to the company).      

Even if we can somehow get past the diversion of funds to a CPC Member, the odd structure of this deal and the misrepresentation and missing details in the press release, what makes this even worse is the probability that this is yet another weird, fake CPC business, shipping fentanyl and synthetic opioids around the globe, laundering money and somehow facilitating the never ending CPC dollar grab and financial asset purchases. 

I might also ask, if Alibaba management was truly intent on buying a 14% stake in a goofy, hot-mess of a fake company like this, why would they go through all of this intrigue and these odd structural mechanics?  Why not just call a broker and buy the shares on the exchange over the next three years?  Unless, perhaps, they are setting this up to record yet another series of step acquisition "valuation gains" like they did with Alibaba Pictures, Alibaba Health, Wasu Media, Cainiao, etc. etc...to continue to goose the bottom line with fake asset valuation income...

Gotta keep the enthusiasm and the Ponzi going!

4.) Share Based Compenstion

Even though they are cooking the books, and fully understand that the business is no longer profitable/viable as currently constituted at this scale, they continue to award massive Share-Based Compensation (kickbacks to party members).  US$1.036 Billion this quarter.  Roughly 1/3rd of "fake" Net income.

Incredible.

5.) Ant Financial

Here's the sole note regarding the Ant Financial Royalty fees and Service Arrangement from page 12 of the press release:

"Royalty fees and software technology service fees under our profit sharing arrangement with Ant Financial amounted to RMB1,627 million (US$237 million) in the quarter ended June 30, 2019, compared to RMB910 million in the same quarter of 2018." 

Yes indeed.  That's all there is.  I'm just going to cut and past a modified note I had from a prior post since the disclosure situation hasn't changed, I particularly liked my wording when I wrote this.  Perhaps you may not have read it or remembered its relevancy. 

"I think the Ant Financial reporting and relationship is great!  A gigantic monopoly, with a self described market value of $150 Billion has finally made a little bit of money in a quarter!...after years of apparently undercharging its 1 billion+ customers.  Even though Alipay/Ant is joined at the hip with Alibaba (and US Shareholders by default) there has never been any meaningful, verifiable financial information disclosed for this beast.  

If Ant actually charged a meaningful arms length "escrow service fee" (e.g. 1% of US$ 700 Billion = US$ 7 Billion/yr.)  on Alibaba transactions it would render the business model unsustainable immediately.

Could it be that these escrow payment schemes are simply the tools of "earnings management" and indeed a "state secret" as the CPC would have us believe, or is it more likely that this business is, more probably, yet another cesspool of CPC money, stolen from Chinese citizens soon to be used to facilitate the destruction of US Dollar hegemony?"  


6.) The Hong Kong secondary listing wasn't mentioned.  

Alibaba Management had accomplished the 8:1 share split as described in the filings, but there was no mention of a time table or plans to list the stock in Hong Kong during the investor call.  I guess we are to assume that everything is just fine and dandy and on schedule....full speed ahead.  What could possibly go wrong??






























Summary:

I think Mark Baum (Steve Carell) said it best.....Alibaba is "dog shit wrapped in cat shit...."