Commentary

Patricia Moulton: VTDigger’s EB-5 story inaccurate

Editor’s note: This commentary is by Patricia Moulton, the secretary of the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development.

The Agency of Commerce is compelled to correct several inaccurate allegations that VTDigger published in the Oct. 5 story “VTDigger Exclusive: EB-5 Investors Question State’s Watchdog Role.” 

Patricia Moulton, secretary of the Agency of Commerce and Community Development. Courtesy photo
Patricia Moulton, secretary of the Agency of Commerce and Community Development. Courtesy photo

The article incorrectly alleges that the state should have demanded quarterly reports from Jay Peak Resorts, but did not, thus not adequately monitoring the project.

Some of the EB-5 investors in the private limited partnership that financed the construction of the Tram Haus Lodge objected to an action taken by Bill Stenger, the General Partner, that was within the authority of the agreement entered into and signed by each limited partner. Mr. Stenger’s action was not in conflict with any federal law or regulations enacted for the EB5 program. Of note, the Jay Peak Tram Haus Lodge is one of the few EB-5 projects in the country to begin to pay back its investors, and each investor has obtained permanent United States residency.

The story implies that it is inappropriate for the state to coordinate PR and marketing efforts related to the EB-5 projects. On the contrary, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) — a component of the Department of Homeland Security, requires that EB-5 Regional Centers market and promote projects as part of the program’s economic development goal. It is entirely appropriate and expected for the state to coordinate PR and marketing efforts related to the EB-5 program here and abroad with the private businesses that participate in it and to be concerned about the reputation of the center and its projects.

The Agency of Commerce and Community Development has worked hard to both maintain and go beyond IIUSA recommendations and establish Vermont’s own best practices for an EB-5 Regional Center.

 

The article states that Gov. Peter Shumlin “touted” the state’s audits of EB-5 programs in a video. Jay Peak was the first EB-5 project in the state and the guiding legal document or memorandum of understanding was signed in 2006. Since Brent Raymond became director of the Vermont Regional Center two years ago, new MOUs signed with subsequent EB-5 projects are required to have financial audits. Gov. Shumlin’s comment, made off the cuff at a media event, was accurate in referring to MOUs written today, but not for the old Jay Peak MOU. Nonetheless, the state did demand that Jay Peak remove the video to avoid any confusion.

Last and most concerning, the story alleges that Brent Raymond and the state have not monitored projects for compliance with the regulations laid out for them. On the contrary, as the more than 260 pages of emails and documents provided to VTDigger clearly showed that the state has been in constant contact with the Jay Peak project, demanding better communication between Jay Peak and its investors, and with the state. Brent requested, and received, regular reports, responded to investor inquiries, and demanded Jay Peak provided answers.

The Agency of Commerce and Community Development has worked hard to both maintain and go beyond IIUSA recommendations and establish Vermont’s own best practices for an EB-5 Regional Center. No one connected with the Vermont Regional Center program has given Jay Peak preferential treatment. We work closely with the leaders of all projects and treat them equally with professional respect as well as diligent oversight.

Readers should know that the state willingly provided VTDigger with approximately 260 pages of correspondence, per the Public Records Act. The story references just three pages of that correspondence. The rest clearly documents the fact that the state made inquiries, reviewed document offerings and made investors aware of Jay Peak’s fiduciary responsibility.

In sum, the state is working hard to bring more than $350 million to the region and ensure the project is well managed and monitored.

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  • July 27th, VT Digger:

    Raymond said Jay Peak representatives verbally informed him the resort had agreed on an exit strategy for the immigrant limited partners. He assumed the investors were being paid off, and that they were satisfied.

    “I guess I can blame myself for making assumptions,” Raymond said.

  • Fred Woogmaster

    “The lady doth protest too much methinks.”

    The corruption embedded in the EB-5 program will not come to light for years to come, if ever.

    • Willem Post

      Fred,

      ACCD promotes and oversees the EB-5 program.

      In January, 2015, Shumlin took oversight away from ACCD and gave it to DFR.

      If ACCD had done such a great job, why would Shumlin give oversight to DFR?

      Remember, the SEC started its investigation in January, 2014, a full year before DFR began its oversight.

      Why did ACCD not do oversight at the same time as the SEC?

  • Jamie Carter

    The facts don’t sell ad space… And this is a VTDigger “exclusive” meaning that all the other news agencies saw it for what it was… a non-story.

  • Bill Olenick

    The state and fed would be much better off if they worked hard to lift regulations that were put in place by a corrupt Security Exchange Commission that protect the bankers and investment firms who the SEC draws its members from ( Example Bernie Madoff) among other agencies,that restricts investment to the point that lawmakers and elected officials, desperate for new tax revenue, sell out our hard earned citizenship faught for with our ancestors blood, for some foreign chump change.
    In my opinion this is morally corrupt public policy and is not in the citizens best interest.
    Election day is coming up and I urge the good citizens of VT to vote out of office all who support the EB-5 program.

  • Ann Meade

    I don’t think there is a giant conspiracy cooking here, but a lot of really sloppy work. Many times the state appears to be “running” the program, the next article you read, they state has no real authority. Reminds me of the early days of VEPC when companies were receiving tax credits based on promises and they never came to fruition. To say Jay has never been given preferential treatment – never is a long time and they have.

  • Dan Luneau

    The Jay Peak EB5 program aside, I have interacted with Pat Moulton numerous times over the past several years and I can assure you that what she states can be relied upon 100%. Never have I had the occasion to feel otherwise. She has my complete confidence.
    My concern however is why the Digger chose not to print a balanced, factual story of what is going on at Jay Peak. I have come to rely on the Digger as a breath of needed freshair as a news, current event source and I hope my faith in it is not misfounded.

    • Willem Post

      Dan,
      VTDigger has brought to light the EB-5 facts over the years. All you have to do is to go to history TIMELINE.

      This whole episode will set back Vermont’s business sector for years. Vermont already has a near-zero-real growth economy. This and other shenanigans, such as state-controlled education, healthcare and energy, make it worse.

      Businesses more likely will think twice about starting a business or expanding their operations in Vermont, because of the fraudulent outcomes of the EB-5 program.

      About $200 million out of $380 million raised from mostly Asian multi-millionaires was misappropriated, per SEC indictment.

      $50 million of that was used for PERSONAL purposes, such as paying off $18 million in stock market trading margin debt, and to buy a multi-million dollar condo in the Trump Tower in New York City.

      ACCD promotes AND claims to oversee/monitor the EB-5 program; by definition a conflict of interest situation.

      Shumlin, after many years of ACCD “oversight”, did not transfer oversight from ACCD to DFR until January 2015.

      The SEC started investigating Jay Peak, et al., projects in January 2014, ONE WHOLE YEAR EARLIER.

      Why had ACCD not been EFFECTIVELY investigating at about the same time as the SEC?

      ACCD is required, BY LAY, to turn over the EB-5-related documents requested by VTDigger. There is nothing voluntary about it.

      ACCD claims hundreds of pages in its files were turned over to VTDigger that show “oversight”.

      If that were truly EFFECTIVE oversight, why would Shumlin transfer oversight to DFR?

      Some leading people at ACCD may think of having done a good job of oversight, but they just seem not be able to get out of denial mode, when it is proven otherwise.

  • Andrew Carr

    A POTENTIAL LAWSUIT AGAINST THE STATE OF VERMONT??

    Obviously Pat Moulton and The Agency of Commerce forsee a potential lawsuit by these investors in their claim that the agency failed in their stated responsibility to oversee what Stenger and his gang were up to – hence the agencies desperate attempt at defending what Mr Stenger did behind the backs of the investors as legit !

  • Jeff Noordsy

    Well, doesn’t this make for an interesting read in light of recent events.

    • Jamie Carter

      Hard to believe the state has the gall to try and take credit for “taking them down” when they were clearly bystanders in the process of watching the feds actually figure it out.

      Obviously Ms. Moulton and Ms. Donegan should be getting a little more scruitny and a lot less praise then they have been recently… as for Shumlin, well of course he’d take credit for it. He’d take credit for building the Statue of Liberty if it was in Vermont.

  • Peggy Larson

    Patricia Mouton’s job is promotion not regulation. So I read her comments with a grain of salt. I hope this mess is a wake up call to regulators in Vermont.