Access the USA, LLC vs Citi Group Inc. & J.P.Morgan Securities & Merrill Lynch
Filing Date:May 26, 2015
Case:Access the USA Vs. Washington State
Jurisdiction:Federal District Court for the Western District of Washington
Civil / Criminal:Civil
Due process violations
An investment firm specializing in helping wealthy foreigners buy into American public projects to secure green cards has sued Washington state claiming Chinese investors were unfairly cut out of the state Route 520 bridge replacement project. Filing the lawsuit earlier in May, attorneys for the Washington firm – Access the USA – claim the state ignored $143 million in bond offers from foreign investors. Most of those investors are wealthy Chinese nationals looking to come to the United States through an immigration program that grants legal residency to foreigners who invest at least $500,000. At issue in the lawsuit are bonds sold to pay for the 520 bridge replacement project, a $4.3 billion effort to replace the floating bridge and improve SR 520 between Bellevue and Seattle. Attorneys for Access the USA claim that the state Treasurer’s Office refused to sell bonds to foreign investors while aggressively courting others, presumably Americans. The attorneys claim the state’s motive was simple – to avoid the appearance that the bridge was being built with Chinese money. Contacted for comment, an attorney for the state declined to discuss the allegations in detail. “We don’t believe it’s appropriate to address specific factual allegations in the complaint until we’ve had a chance to look into this further and can respond to the complaint as a whole,” Assistant Attorney General Eric Mentzer said by email Friday. Mentzer said the state has no policy against allowing foreign investors to buy into public projects. In the days before a major bond sale, Treasurer’s Office workers lobbied the firm running the sale – Citigroup – not to allow Access the USA to buy any of the 520 debt, attorney Donald Mullins said in the lawsuit, filed in King County Superior Court. “Employees of Citigroup indicated that the state of Washington wanted to avoid any negative association that might come from allowing a large investment in the 520 project by Chinese investors,” Mullins told the court. The state, he continued, hoped to “avoid negative media coverage surrounding Chinese investment” in the project. Aimed at making SR 520 faster and safer, the bridge replacement project got underway in earnest in 2010 and work on the new span is currently underway.
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