Skip to main content

Lawyer: because "the heart" of EB-5 is job creation, it's fine for foreign (government) developers to trade U.S. green cards for cheap capital

I'm catching up on a lot of news related to the EB-5 program, which has helped the developers of Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park raise $477 million in cheap capital, with another $100 million to go. Perhaps the clearest summary of the lure and sketchiness of the program came in a February 2012 quote from an EB-5 fundraiser to The Daily:“It’s just a way of being able to get free money, basically, to build all sorts of projects.”

Does it make a difference if American entrepreneurs seeking cheap capital from immigrant investors (who want green cards) take on foreign partners, or even foreign-government owned partners?

I've suggested that, in the case of the Greenland Group and Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, the situation sounds like something out of The Onion: the Chinese government--Greenland is majority owned by the government of Shanghai--would profit by marketing a precious national asset (U.S. green cards) to Chinese immigrants.

The purported justification is job creation, but that's very fuzzy.

The EB-5 industry, unsurprisingly, disagrees. EB-5 attorney Victor Shum on 1/15/15 wrote Welcome International Developers to the EB-5 Project Marketplace for EB5 INVESTORS MAGAZINE:
Over the past few years, international developers have entered the United States market and launched development projects that incorporate EB-5 funding as part of the project's capital stack. This past February, Shanghai-based Greenland Group broke ground on its mixed-use Metropolis project in downtown Los Angeles. And in Oakland, the Brooklyn Basin Project is a more recently announced joint venture between Signature Development Group of Oakland and Zarsion Holdings Group Co. Ltd of Beijing, China—both with EB-5 offerings.
Greenland, of course, is also using EB-5 for Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park along with Forest City Ratner, raising $249 million and now in the process of raising $100 million. (Forest City raised the first $228 million before its partnership with Greenland emerged.

A new boost?

Writes Shum:
As a result of this beneficial arrangement, many projects that have languished for years due to lack of funding are suddenly greenlighted for development. Communities that have long-suffered from a deficiency in domestic investment have the opportunity to become revitalized with foreign investor funds—only a small portion of which may expressly be from EB-5 investors. Judging by the number of trade missions made to China by local and state leaders seeking foreign direct investment for their communities, our elected officials would appear to agree.
He portrays it as a win-win, with the Chinese development groups "achieving portfolio diversification in the United States," while U.S.-based developers not only "gain access to cheaper capital" but also--as I've noted--gain "a strong local partner to market EB-5 investments in China."

It's more than that. It's enhancing developer profits, by substituting cheap capital for existing capital, substituting for bridge financing.

No formal bar

For investors, Shum notes, there's little difference between this and other EB-5 projects, since the same requirements and paperwork apply.

Shum notes that the federal agency overseeing the program, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) "neither expressly nor implicitly precludes a foreign-owned company from participating in the EB-5 program, nor should they."

His rationale is that the "the heart of the EB-5 program is job creation in America for American workers." Based on that, the more players, the better. His conclusion:
Far from being a cause of concern, international developers investing money and developing U.S.-based projects is a vote of confidence in the United States. As Senator Patrick Leahy noted, "[a]t a time when so much American investment is incentivized off shore, isn’t it nice to see a government program [EB-5] that brings foreign investment onshore?"
Let me suggest another perspective. The heart of the EB-5 program is not job creation. The heart is selling visas cheap, providing profits for the developer/entrepreneur, and all the middlemen involved.

Yes, the Atlantic Yards EB-5 projects include public funding, and that is part of the sum used by an economist to magically calculate job creation.

If the heart actually were job creation, then there'd be a far more stringent way of measuring it, and--for example--immigrant investors wouldn't gain job-creation credit based on the entire pot of money, just their contribution. And maybe the government would require the investment be in government bonds, rather than allow a Rube Goldberg scheme in which the profits go to clever developers.

Leahy, a champion of EB-5, has gotten regular campaign contributions from the big EB-5 developer in Vermont.

Greenland on EB-5

As I wrote last November,  Crain's New York Business published an unsurprisingly gentle interview with I-Fei Chang, who leads Greenland USA, the U.S. arm of Greenland Holdings.

The closing passage:
What are your thoughts on the EB-5 program, which offers a U.S. visa to overseas investors?I think it's now become almost a conventional way [to raise capital] for large-scale developers in America. They utilize EB-5 because it is quick money, and it improves the employment rate. For the L.A. project and also Pacific Park, we used that method. EB-5 investors, especially some of the 2 million customers who already buy from us in China, know our brand. So they are very confident we will deliver.
As I wrote, it has become almost conventional because it's such a great deal. EB-5, however, does not "improve the employment rate." To quote Fortune:
A December 2013 study by the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general found that the government “cannot demonstrate that the program is improving the U.S. economy and creating jobs for U.S. citizens.” A February 2014 paper by the Brookings-Rockefeller Project on State and Metropolitan Innovation concluded that “knowledge of the program’s true economic impact is elusive at best.”
There are two reasons for that. First, the government is exceedingly generous in its employment tally. It gives EB-5 investors credit for all the jobs theoretically spawned by a project even when EB-5 money represents only a sliver of its financing. Second, for many mainstream ventures, EB-5 money isn’t really creating jobs—it’s merely saving developers money for projects that would be financed anyway.
But Chang did affirm that a Chinese company has an edge in marketing an EB-5 project to Chinese investors.


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…

No, security guards can't ban photos. Questions remain about visibility of ID/sticker system.

The bi-monthly Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Community Update meeting June 14, held at 55 Hanson Place, addressed multiple issues, including delays in the project, a new detente with project neighbors,concerns about traffic congestion, upcoming sewer work and demolitions, and an explanation of how high winds caused debris to fly off the under-construction 38 Sixth Avenue building. I'll have more coverage.
Security issues came up several times at the meeting.
Wayne Bailey, a resident who regularly takes photos and videos (that I often use) of construction/operations issues that impact residents, asked representatives of Tishman Construction if the security guard at the sites they're building works for them.
After Tishman Senior VP Eric Reid said yes, Bailey asked why a guard told him not to shoot video of the site, even though he was on a public street.

"I will address it with principals for that security firm," Reid said.
Forest City Ratner executive Ashley Cotton, the …

Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park graphic: what's built/what might be coming + FAQ (post-dated pinned post)

This graphic, posted in February 2018, is post-dated to stay at the top of the blog. It will be updated as announced configurations change and buildings launch. Note the unbuilt B1 and the proposed--but not yet approved--shift in bulk to the unbuilt Site 5.

The August 2014 tentative configurations proposed by developer Greenland Forest City Partners will change. The project is already well behind that tentative timetable.

How many people are expected?

Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park has a projected 6,430 apartments housing 2.1 persons per unit (as per Chapter 4 of the 2006 Final Environmental Impact Statement), which would mean 13,503 new residents, with 1,890 among them in low-income affordable rentals, and 2,835 in moderate- and middle-income affordable rentals.

That leaves 8,778 people in market-rate rentals and condos, though let's call it 8,358 after subtracting 420 who may live in 200 promised below-market condos. So that's 5,145 in below-market units, though many of them won…

The passing of David Sheets, Dean Street renter, former Freddy's bartender, eminent domain plaintiff, and singular personality

David Sheets, longtime Dean Street renter, Freddy's bartender, eminent domain plaintiff, and singular personality, died 1/17/18 in HCA Greenview Hospital in Bowling Green, KY. He was 56.

There are obituary notices in the Bowling Green Daily News and the Wichita Eagle, which state:
He was born in Wichita, KS where he attended public Schools and Wichita State University. He lived for many years in Brooklyn, NY, and was employed as a legal assistant. David's hobby was cartography and had an avid interest in Mass Transit Systems of the world. David was predeceased by his father, Kenneth E. Sheets. He is survived by his mother, Wilma Smith, step-brother, Billy Ray Smith and his wife, Jane all of Bowling Green; step-sister, Ellen Smith Alexander and her husband, Jerry of Bella Vista, AR; several cousins and step-nieces and step-nephews also survive. Memorial Services will be on Monday, January 22, 2018 at 1:00 pm with visitation from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm Monday at Johnson-Vaughn-Phe…

Some skepticism on Belmont hockey deal: lease value seems far below Aqueduct racino; unclear (but large?) cost for LIRR service

As I wrote for The Bridge 12/20/1, The Islanders Say Bye to Brooklyn, But Where Next?, the press conference announcing a new arena at Belmont Park for the New York Islanders was "long on pomp... but short on specifics."

Notably, a lease valued at $40 million "upfront to lease up to 43 acres over 49 years... seems like a good deal on rent for the state-controlled property." Also, the Long Island Rail Road will expand service to Belmont.

That indicates public support for an arena widely described as "privately financed," but how much? We don't know yet, but some more details--or at least questions--have emerged.

An Aqueduct comparable?

Well, we don't know what the other bid was, and there aren't exactly parcels that large offering direct comparables.

But consider: Genting New York LLC in September 2010 was granted a franchise to operate a video lottery terminal under a 30 year lease on 67 acres at Aqueduct Park (as noted by Gov. Andrew Cuomo).


Barclays Center event June 11 to protest plans to expand Israeli draft; questions about logistics

At right is a photo of a poster spotted in Hasidic Williamsburg right. Clearly there's an event scheduled at the Barclays Center aimed at the Haredi Jewish community (strict Orthodox Jews who reject secular culture), but the lack of English text makes it cryptic.

The website explains, Protest Against Israeli Draft of Bnei Yeshiva Rescheduled for Barclays Center:
A large asifa to protest the drafting of bnei yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel into the Israeli army that had been set to take place this month will instead be held on Sunday, 17 Sivan/June 11, at the Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn, NY. So attendees at a big gathering will protest an apparent change of policy that will make it much more difficult for traditional Orthodox Jewish students--both Hasidic (who follow a rebbe) and non-Hasidic (who don't)--to get deferments from the draft. Comments on the Yeshiva World website explain some of the debate.

The logistical questions

What's unclear is how large the ev…