Tag Archives: Greentech

Dodging a Bullet

Virginia voters have swept Terry McAuliffe into the dustbin of political history, so one might reasonably ask if there is any point in re-hashing more of the GreenTech Automotive story than Bacon’s Rebellion has already detailed in a recent five-part series. The answer is yes. One part of the tale is still worth retelling — how employees of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) acquitted themselves when confronted by the GreenTech Puffery machine. — JAB

by Carol J. Bova

Terry McAuliffe’s proposal in 2009 to build an electric-vehicle manufacturing facility in Virginia did not come through normal economic-development channels. The idea landed first in Governor Tim Kaine’s policy shop, which forwarded it to the state’s economic-development professionals at VEDP.

McAuliffe was spinning his plan to build hybrid and electric vehicles as a potentially multibillion-dollar economic-development opportunity. While approaching Virginia, however, GreenTech officials also were engaged in talks with Mississippi about locating an electric-vehicle manufacturing plant in the Magnolia state. The apparent goal was to get the two states into a bidding war over incentives. Continue reading

Masters of Hype and Puffery

Former President Clinton at the GreenTech “pilot plant” in July 2012.

This is the fifth in a series of articles about Terry McAuliffe and GreenTech.

by James A. Bacon and Carol J. Bova

On July 6, 2012, GreenTech Automotive launched the rollout of the “all-American” MyCar electric vehicle at a ceremony attended by former President Bill Clinton, the governor of Mississippi, the assistant secretary of Homeland Security and, as described by local media, “an overflow crowd.”

It was a festive occasion. Clinton lauded company chairman Terry McAuliffe and former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, a Republican, who was also in attendance, for overcoming their political rivalries and delivering a tremendous manufacturing project for the state of Mississippi. 

McAuliffe, too, was upbeat. “For too long, America has been inventing products here and sending the production jobs overseas,” he said. “But … we’re proud to bring manufacturing jobs back and prove that the U.S. is still the world leader in technological innovation and manufacturing.”

The day before, McAuliffe had told the New York Times that he thought the company could produce 10,000 cars in 2013. He quoted an $18,000 price tag for a top-of-the-line MyCar, with less capable versions selling for less, implying potential revenues in the realm of $150 million. During the ceremony itself, he announced big news: Domino’s Pizza Inc. would exclusively use the MyCar to deliver pizzas in 10,000 locations across the U.S.

Photographers snapped pictures of a grinning Clinton toodling around the cement floor of the pilot plant in a MyCar decked out with the Domino’s Pizza logo. Other photographs showed GreenTech employees industriously working on an assembly line of MyCars. Continue reading

Shearing the Sheep

This is the fourth in a series of posts about Terry McAuliffe and GreenTech Automotive.

by James A. Bacon and Carol J. Bova

The Chinese citizens who lost $500,000 each from investing in GreenTech Automotive were not happy with their setback. While they had ponied up their money as part of a scheme to get a U.S. visa under the EB-5 program, many thought they would get their money back. When they didn’t, they felt cheated. Twenty-seven of them banded together and filed suit against Xiaolin “Charles” Wang, Anthony Rodham and Terry McAuliffe, the principals of GreenTech and its allied fund-raising arm Gulf Coast Management.

The outcome of the case, Xia Bi vs. McAuliffe, hinged on matters of law. Boasting, exaggeration and hype regarding future events, referred to as “puffery,” which the defendants indisputably engaged in, do not constitute fraud. Although some of the Chinese plaintiffs’ allegations did describe misstatements of fact, said federal appeals court judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III in a 2009 ruling, they failed to show that they had based their investment decisions upon those misstatements. Accordingly, he upheld a lower court order to dismiss the case.

Nevertheless, Xia Bi vs. McAuliffe¬†provides insight into how the GreenTech fund-raising operation worked. It is abundantly clear why the Chinese investors felt cheated, even if they could not win their case in court. As Wilkinson wrote, “There are no laurels in this case, no accolades to be bestowed.” Continue reading

Dreams from the Opium Den

This is the third article in a series about Terry McAuliffe and GreenTech.

by James A. Bacon and Carol J. Bova

When partners Xiaolin “Charlie” Wang, Anthony Rodham, and Terry McAuliffe banded together in 2009 to finance and build an electric vehicle enterprise known as GreenTech Automotive, they thought big. Very big. In a 2009 offering memorandum pitched to Chinese investors, they stated they aimed to grow their flimsily financed start-up into an automotive behemoth eventually capable of generating up to $33 billion in revenue.

“If full production of one million vehicles is realized,” elaborated the document, GreenTech’s manufacturing facility in Tunica County, Miss., would be “one of the largest automobile manufacturing plants in the world.”

In retrospect — after GreenTech went bankrupt having produced only a handful of cars, burned through more than $140 million, and left barely $6 million behind for investors and creditors in the bankruptcy settlement — such aspirations seem wildly disconnected from reality. Whether McAuliffe and his partners believed such targets were remotely realistic is a question only they can answer.

Looking at GreenTech from the outside, some described the business as a scheme to snooker millions of dollars from naive Chinese investors. A more charitable explanation is that the GreenTech partners genuinely believed their own hype, hoping they could bootstrap one fund-raising effort into enough progress in building the enterprise that they could make it to the next fund-raising round with a better story, raise some more money, make more progress, and hook the next round of investors. In other words, in such a view, their business plan was fake until you make it.

Whatever the thought process, it was an abject failure. Chinese investors lost almost everything, they felt cheated, and the three principals opened themselves to accusations of fraud. Continue reading

A Handshake Deal Gone Bad

This is the second in a series of articles about Terry McAuliffe and Greentech.

by James A. Bacon and Carol J. Bova

Fourteen  years ago, Benjamin Yeung was a Chinese entrepreneur whose companies manufactured and sold minibuses, passenger cars and business vehicles in China. In 2007 he launched a venture with the idea of building small hybrid cars in the United States. What made the plan unusual was the source of financing: Chinese investors willing to invest $500,000 in the U.S. in order to get a green card under a new U.S. initiative, the EB-5 Investor Pilot Program.

Although he needed an interpreter, Yeung was comfortable doing business in the United States. His wife, Rhea, was an American citizen, and he owned a residence in California. According to the account he gave in a court affidavit, he set up a holding company, Hybrid Kinetic Automotive Holdings, Inc. (HK Holdings), and an operating subsidiary, Hybrid Kinetic Automotive Corporation (HKAC).

Yeung said he made wife Rhea the sole shareholder of HK Automotive Holdings. But to run the venture in its start-up phase, he brought on a young Chinese man living in Northern Virginia, Xia0lin “Charlie” Wang. Wang was highly credentialed. He had earned an undergraduate law degree from Xiangtan University, an M.A. degree in development studies from Ohio University, and a degree in international law from Duke University. On his resume, he listed experience as a capital markets partner in the Washington, D.C., office of a prominent New York law firm. Continue reading

Where Did $140 Million in GreenTech Money Go?

This is the first in a series of articles about Terry McAuliffe and GreenTech Automotive.

by James A. Bacon and Carol J. Bova

In September 2016, the Office of the State Auditor (OSA) of the state of Mississippi began undertaking a review of the contracts signed by the state’s economic development authority. The goal was to see if the corporations benefiting from state incentive money had made good on the capital investment and job creation they had promised. Several companies were targeted for a closer look.

One of those was Greentech Automotive Inc., a Virginia company whose chairman in 2011 when the Memorandum of Understanding was signed was Terry McAuliffe.

GreenTech had announced ambitious plans for a multibillion-dollar business by designing and manufacturing hybrid and electric vehicles. Between 2009 and 2013 the company raised a total of $141.5 million from Chinese investors under the EB-5 program, which gave foreigners a U.S. green card in exchange for a $500,000 investment in the United States. Incentive financing from the state of Mississippi and Tunica County, Miss., amounted to another $6 million. All told, GreenTech raised at least $147.5 million in funding.

Despite a GreenTech commitment to invest $60 million in the manufacturing plant, very few cars ever rolled off the assembly line… assuming there even was an assembly line. The Mississippi auditor’s report could find documentation for only $3.4 million spent on automotive assembly equipment and parts. Further, despite promises to create 350 full-time jobs, the auditors determined that the company had never supported more than 94 active, full-time jobs in Mississippi at a time. GreenTech made only a single $150,000 payment to the state.

Despite having scrimped on manufacturing expenditures, the company listed minimal assets when it filed for bankruptcy in 2017. In a final settlement, agreed to last year, investors and creditors recovered only $6.6 million. Mississippi and Tunica County recovered only $575,000.

What happened to the other $140 million? Continue reading