Money paid by 1MDB to the US company DuSable Capital Management, tasked with lobbying US Government support for its Kedah solar panel project, found its way into the the 2013/14 election campaigns of at least 7 Democrat candidates, according to official filings.
Substantial sums were paid, including US$25,000 to the Governorship campaign of Virginia’s Terry McAuliffe in late 2013 and US$5,200 each to three candidates for the Senate in 2014, Mark Begich, Michelle Nunn and Dick Durbin.
Dick Durbin is currently the Democrat Party’s minority Whip in the Senate, making him a powerful political figure.
DuSable is headed by Frank White, who was President Obama’s chief fundraiser during his own election campaign in 2012 and known as a Democrat Party stalwart.
In 2013 he announced his decision to enter the Private Equity business, making him, according to Bloomberg one of “a small group of money managers founded by former political figures and public officials, who have sought to parlay their connections to invest in industries that rely on direct or indirect government support”.
So far, the only registered client has turned out to be 1MDB and the Government of Malaysia. This raises possible questions over indirect funding to American election campaigns by Malaysia in expectation of gaining influence, although it is not illegal for US registered companies to support candidates.
DuSable later declared multiple roles in its capacity as foreign agent, including consulting for the 1MDB solar project; raising investment for a related energy development partnership and lobbying to obtain US government ‘non-financial support’ for these ventures.
A statement to the US Department of Justice Foreign Agent Registration Unit in 2014 confirmed that DuSable received US$506,079 from the “Government of Malaysia” on 28th October 2013 for the purpose of a “joint venture partnership reimbursement for [a] solar investment project in Malaysia”.
The form adds:
“DuSable undertakes various purely commercial activities related to its business that may indirectly benefit the Government of Malaysia insofar as 1MDB is a partner in the solar project in Malaysia”
This role included, according to earlier filings, “to communicate with US government officials to encourage the US government to provide non-financial support for the [solar power] project”
Why this solar panel project in Kedah would be in need of US Government support remains unclear.
Even stranger, earlier this month Prime Minister Najib Razak had stated that there had been no Malaysian Government joint venture with DuSable.
In the face of opposition bafflement, expressed by PKR spokesman Wong Chen, this claim was ‘clarified’ last week through a joint statement by 1MDB and DuSable, which admitted details of the relationship and of a stunning US$69 million pay off made to a fund managed by DuSable, named Yurus, which had obtained a 49% partnership in 1MDB’s solar energy ‘Master Joint Venture’.
It means, that as the 1MDB scandal unravels, even the ruling US Democrat party now finds itself, on the eve of Obama’s visit, potentially tainted by the spreading sleaze of Malaysia’s graft crisis.
Sarawak Report has researched 1MDB’s as yet unrealised solar power venture and spoken to informed private equity experts about the unusual developments surrounding Frank White’s sudden entry into their highly specialised business. This includes that extraordinary pay out by 1MDB of US$69 million (RM300 million) to buy out a joint venture project that had done nothing.
As one informed observer, who prefers to remain anonymous, summarised:
“For some reason, which we don’t know, 1MDB wanted the Yurus Fund, managed by Frank White, to make a US$70 million profit in Malaysia”
Malaysians might think there could be better uses for a fund employing borrowed public money in the name of development, which ended up some US$12 billion in the red.
The crucial evidence from the records available (illustrated above) shows that the Private Equity fund Yurus, set up by White, registered the entire US$69 million it received from 1MDB as additional profit, implying it had not invested any of its original US$505 million fund in the venture.
Sarawak Report can also reveal that the fund then filed for closure in July this year with a total stated remaining capital of US$76 million, the lion’s share of which would therefore appear to comprise the payment from 1MDB.
Fund managers say this appears to confirm that the entire joint venture investment was yet again a merely paper exercise by 1MDB, which Sarawak Report has already exposed for earlier channelling US$1.83 billion into a non-existent venture with the company PetroSaudi. Most of that ‘investment’ ended up in the bank accounts of 1MDB advisor Jho Low.
The Yurus fund was incorporated by White in October 2013, who thereby launched himself as a totally inexperienced Private Equity manager through his company DuSable, which had itself been incorporated just a few months earlier on 9th May 2013.
Research shows that DuSable’s first contract had been to act as a consultant and lobbyist for the Kedah solar power plant on behalf of the Government of Malaysia and 1MDB, for which it registered as a Foreign Agent in September 2013 and received payment of US$506,079 in October 2013, under the auspices of what it called a joint venture with 1MDB.
Sure enough, five months later on 18th March 2014, the Malaysian Government awarded 1MDB permission to undertake a solar development project. According the last week’s joint statement by 1MDB and DuSable, a ‘Master Joint Venture’ was then signed between Yuros and 1MDB 11th April to develop solar power projects and the following day a subsidiary was set up to develop the Kedah plant.
Observers believe that this sequence of events indicates that proposals made to 1MDB by green energy experts already actively promoting projects in the region appear for some reason to have taken up by 1MDB and linked into a relationship with the Obama lobbying contact Frank White.
“There was perhaps a US$100,000 or so feasibility contract to be had scoping for the solar power project in Kedah – $200,000 tops. That leaves US$300,000 fat in that contract to DuSable that needs explained” one investment expert told Sarawak Report.
It would therefore appear that Frank White, who had formerly sold out his own IT support company before going into political campaigning, was not only attracted into consulting and lobbying on the project, but was at the same time drawn into setting up the massive Yurus fund, financed at least in part by Aabar.
Insiders say the sequence went with lightening speed for a totally new start up.
DuSable registered as a foreign agent on the 26th of September 2013.
Yurus was incorporated days later at the start October. The rookie fund then went on to announce its first commitment of a massive single fund injection of US$505,000 million just a fortnight later on October 17th from two investors, one of which is said by the Wall Street Journal to have been the Abu Dhabi based Aabar fund.
A week after that, on October 28th DuSable received its separate consultancy payment of US$505,079 from 1MDB.
Sarawak Report and other media have, if course, documented numerous apparent irregularities surrounding the management of Aabar, over the past few months, which is believed to have lost some US$50 billion under the management of its now sacked former Chairman Khadem al Qubaisi.
Many of these irregularities have also been linked to 1MDB, whose unpaid debts Aabar is currently committed to covering until June of 2016.
Private Equity professionals have told Sarawak Report that the success of a brand new company like DuSable, comprising three employees with no direct experience in private equity, in achieving a first capital commitment of US$505 million caused considerable surprise within the industry.
Frank White’s partner at DuSable is a former hedge fund executive and fellow political campaigner Shomik Dutta and his co-owner at Yurus is none other than another political friend, the well-known Fugees singer Pras (Prakazrel) Michel.
“It’s a very fast take off. They set up at DuSable, then immediately set up a Private Equity fund and then to immediately get US$500 million under management straight off the blocks is a very good take-off for guys who have never raised a fund before and have no background in Private Equity… to give this kind of money to people who have proven track records as great investors, it’s believable, but there is nothing in his [Frank White’s] background that says he’s a Private Equity investor. You expect a team of really experienced guys, plus number crunchers and an industry expert like Emmanuel [Guyot].. but when you see that lot their common element is that all have been involved not in investments but campaigns… it doesn’t sound at all like a Private Equity firm, it sounds like a lobbying firm” a private equity professional told Sarawak Report.
In which case, it is reasonable to ask why did 1MDB and Aabar engage in this joint venture and investment partnership, once again risking Malaysia’s public money not on experts with track records, but on politically connected Americans close to the newly re-elected President?
What seems clear is that no sooner had Yurus and DuSable set up shop with their shiny new joint venture and investment commitment of US$505 million, then things started to fold.
On October 2nd 2014, less than six months after the signing of the joint venture (and two weeks after Sarawak Report exposed Frank White’s involvement with 1MDB) Malaysia’s development fund are recorded as having bought out the Yurus 49% interest for a whopping US$69 million.
DuSable has registered the ‘termination’ of its foreign agent relationship with the Government of Malaysia from the same date. The company explained in its Foreign Agent filing to the Department of Justice:
“On October 2, 2014 the private equity fund managed by DuSable entered into an agreement to sell its joint venture interest in the solar project to 1MDB in anticipation of an initial public offereing of 1MDB’s energy assets. Proceeds of that sale have been and will be distributed to DuSable and its limited partners pursuant to the fund’s subscription agreement and other agreements with the limited partners….
DuSable has continued to take steps to promote itself, Malaysia, and Malaysia-related business opportunities in order to develop additional business for DuSable, but those efforts have not borne fruit to date… DuSable has sold its interest in the solar project on which it sought non-financial support from the US government”
It now emerges that not only has the Yurus 1MDB Master Joint Venture project folded. According to a filing to America’s Securities and Exchange Commission by DuSable on 22nd July this year, the entire half billion dollar fund was also dissolved on 30th June.
The filings indicate that in fact none of the money that was originally committed to this private equity vehicle by its beneficiaries was ever actually invested by the managers at DuSable.
This is made clear by the final filing on Yurus to the SEC, which shows that the remaining value in the fund is in fact merely US$76 million, little more than the pay out from the 1MDB joint venture, into which plainly nothing was ever invested by Yurus.
Malaysian opposition politicians have queried the sudden disappearance of the apparent US$505,000 dollar fund – the answer appears to be that it was a discretionary amount, committed but never invested by DuSable and therefore no longer at the disposal of the defunct Yurus venture.
The evidence shows that a six month joint venture with a Private Equity super-fund that fizzled out after just one year realised a US$70 million profit out of 1MDB plus over half a million in consultancy fees, without evidence of any investment or progress in the proposed solar panel project in Kedah.
That profit, minus fees, will accrue to the investors, one of which is believed to be Aabar, minus the management fees claimed by DuSable. DuSable’s latest filings say that its statement of fees is suspended pending the sale of the asset funds.
However, experts in Private Equity management assess that the firm ought to expect to realise around 2% in terms of annual management fee and then around 18% of performance fee on the profit realised from the US$69 million realised from the joint venture share sale to 1MDB.
“We can guess they [DuSable] get to keep a maximum of US$14 million of that sum”
calculates an industry insider, based on the profit made out of 1MDB.
It means that, although their dreams of private equity may have fallen through after just one year, President Obama’s political friends can console themselves with a fine profit for their sparse consultancy work on a project that never took off for 1MDB and their lobbying work as a foreign agent for the Government of Malaysia.
The hidden beneficiaries of Yurus have also made tens of millions without investing a single cent.
It is an episode that raises several concerns about Obama’s relations with Najib Razak – concerns that the President may not have been aware of as he accepted the suggestion of playing golf with Malaysia’s Prime Minister, just weeks after Yurus received its pay out and several of his candidates for Senate had received a helping hand in the 2014 autumn elections.
09/05/13 – DuSable is incorporated Delaware
17/06/13 – Pantoll Energy (major recipient of payments from DuSable) incorporated Delaware
26/09/13 – DuSable registers as a foreign agent citing Government of Malaysia/1MDB JV
29/09/13 – Mark Begich senate campaign receives $5,200 from DuSable
29/09/13 – Michelle Nunn senate campaign receives $5,200 from DuSable
01/10/13 – Yurus fund incorporated in Delaware by Pras Michael and Frank White
17/10/13 – Yurus announces US$505 million fund commitment by two anonymous investors
28/10/13 – DuSable receives US$506,079 payment from 1MDB
06/01/14 – $25,000 received by Terry McAuliffe Governor Campaign in Virginia
24/01/14 – Keven Strouse receives $500 for Senator campaign
01/03/14 – Don Beyer receives $500 for Senator campaign
01/03/14 – Ro Khanna receives $500 for Senator campaign
21/03/14 – Dick Durbin, Democrat whip, receives $5,200 for Senator Campaign
18/03/14 – 1MDB awarded solar project from Malaysian Government
11/04/14 – ‘Master JVA’ formed between Yurus and 1MDB
12/04/14 – ‘subsidiary’ power project launched for solar plant in Kedah
30/04/14 – DuSable registers continuing foreign agent role for Gov of Malaysia
24/09/14 – Sarawak Report cites connection between DuSable’s Frank White and Obama
02/10/14 – Joint Venture is terminated with a payment of US$69m to Yurus for 49% share
02/10/14 – DuSable registered having ‘terminated’ role as a foreign agent for Gov Malaysia
30/04/15 – DuSable enters new status with DOJ – further ventures had “not born fruit”
30/06/15 – Yurus dissolved
22/07/15 – DuSable files winding up of Yurus, profits and fees pending sale of fund assets