Mike Rounds has gotten by with a big lie; now his EB-5 czar, Joop Bollen, tries to do the same thing.
Here is the audacious central narrative of Joop Bollen's response (don't forget page 20!) to the Government Operations and Audit Committee's inquiry into his activities as director of South Dakota's EB-5 visa investment program (I paraphrase):
EB-5 was everyone else's idea. The state authorized everything I did. Privatizing EB-5 was the only option left to save the program. The state could have made millions from EB-5, but the state didn't have the guts to see it through. I not only did nothing wrong but did wonders for South Dakota. State officials and media have destroyed that program and lied about me. F--- you.
There is no contrition in Bollen's response, no acknowledgement of any wrongdoing. Instead, he appears ready to fight for total vindication.
Consider the charge that Bollen defrauded the Board of Regents and the state of South Dakota by contracting EB-5 out to his own private company. Bollen says...
- He signed no contract with himself; the January 2008 agreement between the SDIBI that he ran for the state and the SDRC Inc. that he incorporated was merely an explanation to the USCIS of a new element of South Dakota's EB-5 program.
- The Governor's Office of Economic Development told him to create SDRC Inc.
- He didn't consider himself the owner of SDRC Inc. until June 2009.
- He intended SDRC Inc. to be a revenue stream for the state, but in 2009, "it appeared that NSU and the state system didn't have the stomach to accept the liabilities that were associated with the entrepreneurial activities they asked for and encouraged me to establish and for which I was hired" [Bollen, 2014.11.10, p. 9].
In other words, a contract is not a contract (lawyers, start your engines), and the state was too chicken to take the revenue stream SDRC Inc. offered.
Consider the charge that Bollen hauled away state documents without permission when he quit his job at Northern State University and walked away to the golden parachute of doing the same job at his private company. Bollen says...
- GOED actually owned those documents, not NSU.
- GOED told him to take those documents.
- NSU President James Smith defamed him by saying otherwise.
Do you hear the lawsuit threat? Bollen sounds ready to go to war with anyone who got in the way of his operation, whether it's the reporters who've been uncovering the most damning information about his self-dealing corruption or the president of NSU who came to power in 2009 and found Bollen's activities incompatible with Northern's mission.
Bollen drops as many other names into his narrative as he can, so that just in case anyone does decide something went wrong with EB-5, he can blame everyone else. According to Bollen...
- Bill Janklow gave Bollen and SDIBI its real authority back in 1995 because Bollen was doing such good work [p. 2].
- NSU President Hilpert got SDIBI more closely involved with GOED in 2000 [p. 3].
- Richard Benda persuaded SDIBI to pour EB-5 money into Northern Beef Packers in 2006 [p. 3].
- GOED mandated that SDIBI work with the Hanul Law Firm (i.e., it wasn't just some hinky, off-book deal between Bollen and his Korean jail-break buddy James Park) [pp. 3–4].
- Maurice "Morrie" Berez "strongly suggested" SDIBI replace the EB-5 equity model with the new loan model under which Bollen created his private company and numerous separate private loan funds.
- In its January 2008 agreement with SDIBI, GOED essentially directed Bollen to create SDRC Inc. [p. 5]
- Regents lawyer Jim Shekleton and Regents exec Tad Perry had Sherry Anderson audit SDIBI's finances in February and March 2009.
- NSU lawyer John Meyer was keenly interested in the successful investment of the EB-5 money flowing to the Huron turkey plant in April 2009 and was advising Bollen on how to manage those investment flows [pp. 6–7]. (Note that this assertion sounds absurd: throughout his statements in the Darley litigation, Meyer portrays NSU as not exercising any role in SDIBI's operations. Bollen's burning of the Regents with his self-representation of SDIBI in the Darley lawsuit would likely have inclined Meyer to keep NSU away from any further risk of liability. NSU's focus during this time appeared to have been to put SDIBI on hold, not facilitate its activities.)
- Richard Benda, GOED lawyer Tim Engel, NSU VP Don Erlenbusch, John Meyer, and Dr. James Smith all knew Bollen was going to privatize SDRC Inc. and all approved of the idea.
- Assistant Attorney General James Hallem was included in the privatization conversations [p. 8].
Joop's message: Don't try hanging me. If EB-5 is a hanging crime—and it's not, it's fabulous!—you're hanging all the decision-makers above me.
Bollen's response is a belligerent, legalistic tour de force. He pins success to himself and culpability to everyone else. And he makes clear he's playing not just to escape but to win. Let's see if our GOAC legislators have the stomach to sift fact from arrogant fiction in Bollen's tale and get the straight story on EB-5.