Skip to main content

Vermont newspaper takes close look at EB-5 program, finds some reason for concern

A long and interesting article from Seven Days Vermont about EB-5 investment, headlined Seeing Green: Vermont's EB-5 program trades cash for visas — fair deal or shady business?, analyzes the program in the state where it probably has the largest impact.

While the article probably leaves an overall positive impression of the program, it breaks some news, describing one apparent scam and explaining how those benefiting from EB-5 reward those who support it.

And it doesn't quite grapple with the question of opportunity cost: if we are going to "sell" visas, are we really getting our money's worth?

Reasons for skepticism

The article notes articles from Bloomberg BusinessWeek and the New York Times that have questioned the EB-5 hype and gerrymandering, and also quotes me on the big picture:
According to freelance journalist Norman Oder, who writes a watchdog blog about the Atlantic Yards EB-5 project in Brooklyn, “There’s almost no one looking out for the public interest, to ensure that not only the letter but the spirit of the law is being met in terms of creating jobs.”

Though USCIS reviews job-creation figures provided by investors, critics say the industry is protected by a coterie of lawyers, brokers and economists who go to bat for a program that generates seemingly limitless foreign cash for anyone involved in the business.

“This is completely unregulated. USCIS is doing very little in the way of monitoring,” charges [Michael] Gibson, the financial adviser. “So far as we know, there is no concerted effort by any federal agencies to monitor the securities activity of the practitioners in the EB-5 field.”
Also see a very spirited back and forth regarding in the comments on Gibson's EB5info blog regarding the largest--and recently controversial--Vermont project, Jay Peak.

Apparent scam uncovered

The article states:
Contrary to the EB-5 program’s mission, one firm “certified” by Vermont and featured on the state’s website appears to be a front company for a Canadian immigration firm in the business of selling visas.
On job creation

The article states:
Despite the government’s role in securing investors by providing them visas, neither those analyses nor any other reports about the projects are available to the public. That means “job creation can be claimed via an economist’s report, not a head count,” says Oder, the Atlantic Yards watchdog.

But Jeff Carr, a state economist who has established one of the nation’s leading EB-5 economic consultancies, says USCIS is plenty rigorous.

“A lot of projects nowadays trying to get approved have to be much better prepared and much more thoroughly thought through than five or 10 years ago,” he says. “My belief is the USCIS is trying hard to improve the standards of the program.”
Well, until we see more transparency, his "belief" shouldn't be definitive.

The politics

The article states that several beneficiaries of EB-5 funding "have all given handsomely to the campaigns of Vermont politicians who support EB-5." Not a surprise, especially in such a small state.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Barclays Center/Levy Restaurants hit with suit charging discrimination on disability, race; supervisors said to use vicious slurs, pursue retaliation

The Daily News has an article today, Barclays Center hit with $5M suit claiming discrimination against disabled, while the New York Post headlined its article Barclays Center sued over taunting disabled employees.

While that's part of the lawsuit, more prominent are claims of racial discrimination and retaliation, with black employees claiming repeated abuse by white supervisors, preferential treatment toward Hispanic colleagues, and retaliation in response to complaints.

Two individual supervisors, for example, are charged with  referring to black employees as “black motherfucker,” “dumb black bitch,” “black monkey,” “piece of shit” and “nigger.”

Two have referred to an employee blind in one eye as “cyclops,” and “the one-eyed guy,” and an employee with a nose disorder as “the nose guy.”

There's been no official response yet though arena spokesman Barry Baum told the Daily News they, but take “allegations of this kind very seriously” and have "a zero tolerance policy for…

Behind the "empty railyards": 40 years of ATURA, Baruch's plan, and the city's diffidence

To supporters of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, it's a long-awaited plan for long-overlooked land. "The Atlantic Yards area has been available for any developer in America for over 100 years,” declared Borough President Marty Markowitz at a 5/26/05 City Council hearing.

Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, mused on 11/15/05 to WNYC's Brian Lehrer, “Isn’t it interesting that these railyards have sat for decades and decades and decades, and no one has done a thing about them.” Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, in a 12/19/04 New York Times article ("In a War of Words, One Has the Power to Wound") described the railyards as "an empty scar dividing the community."

But why exactly has the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard never been developed? Do public officials have some responsibility?

At a hearing yesterday of the Brooklyn Borough Board Atlantic Yards Committee, Kate Suisma…

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

Revising official figures, new report reveals Nets averaged just 11,622 home fans last season, Islanders drew 11,200 (and have option to leave in 2018)

The Brooklyn Nets drew an average of only 11,622 fans per home game in their most recent (and lousy) season, more than 23% below the announced official attendance figure, and little more than 65% of the Barclays Center's capacity.

The New York Islanders also drew some 19.4% below announced attendance, or 11,200 fans per home game.

The surprising numbers were disclosed in a consultant's report attached to the Preliminary Official Statement for the refinancing of some $462 million in tax-exempt bonds for the Barclays Center (plus another $20 million in taxable bonds). The refinancing should lower costs to Mikhail Prokhorov, owner of the arena operating company, by and average of $3.4 million a year through 2044 in paying off arena construction.

According to official figures, the Brooklyn Nets attendance averaged 17,187 in the debut season, 2012-13, 17,251 in 2013-14, 17,037 in 2014-15, and 15,125 in the most recent season, 2015-16. For hoops, the arena holds 17,732.

But official…

So, Forest City has some property subject to the future Gowanus rezoning

Writing yesterday, MAP: Who Owns All the Property Along the Gowanus Canal, DNAinfo's Leslie Albrecht lays out the positioning of various real estate players along the Gowanus Canal, a Superfund site:
As the city considers whether to rezone Gowanus and, perhaps, morph the gritty low-rise industrial area into a hot new neighborhood of residential towers (albeit at a fraction of the height of Manhattan's supertall buildings), DNAinfo reviewed property records along the canal to find out who stands to benefit most from the changes.
Investors have poured at least $440 million into buying land on the polluted waterway and more than a third of the properties have changed hands in the past decade, according to an examination of records for the nearly 130 properties along the 1.8-mile canal. While the single largest landowner is developer Property Markets Group, other landowners include Kushner Companies, Alloy Development, Two Trees, and Forest City New York.

Forest City's plans unc…

At 550 Vanderbilt, big chunk of apartments pitched to Chinese buyers as "international units"

One key to sales at the 550 Vanderbilt condo is the connection to China, thanks to Shanghai-based developer Greenland Holdings.

It's the parent of Greenland USA, which as part of Greenland Forest City Partners owns 70% of Pacific Park (except 461 Dean and the arena).

And sales in China may help explain how the developer was able to claim early momentum.
"Since 550 Vanderbilt launched pre-sales in June [2015], more than 80 residences have gone into contract, representing over 30% of the building’s 278 total residences," the developer said in a 9/25/15 press release announcing the opening of a sales gallery in Brooklyn. "The strong response from the marketplace indicates the high level of demand for well-designed new luxury homes in Brooklyn..."

Maybe. Or maybe it just meant a decent initial pipeline to Chinese buyers.

As lawyer Jay Neveloff, who represents Forest City, told the Real Deal in 2015, a project involving a Chinese firm "creates a huge market for…