Sunday, May 17, 2015

Canadian bank US probed multiple times for fraud paid up to $1M for Hillary Clinton speeches

November 6 update: After years of debate, President Obama finally rejected the Keystone Pipeline, which has been a thorn in the side for presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, since she also took a long time to make a final decision against the controversial project that environmentalists and many liberal voters oppose. The decision comes a day after Clinton's major Democratic challenger bashed her for keeping "silent earlier this year when liberals were trying to find the votes needed to help block legislation that limited Congress’s input to a yes or no vote," as the Boston Globe reported. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders said, "How many years do you have to think about whether or not we excavate and transport the dirtiest fuel in the world? It didn’t take me too long to think about that.”

AJC conservative columnist Kyle Wingfield charged that the "bedeviled" Clinton had long dithered over the issue before saying in September she opposed it. But that statement wasn’t going to end the issue as a problem for her, given labor unions’ support for building the pipeline (because, contrary to Obama’s claim, it would have meant a lot of jobs for them). By closing the door to Keystone, at least for now, Obama lessens the pressure the labor wing of the Democratic Party could have put on Hillary."

"The lobbying fight over Keystone has been expensive, with all sides spending millions of dollars in an attempt to influence the White House and Congress," as CNN noted. On June 25, 2015, Huffington Post's Sam Stein reported that newly hired Hillary Clinton campaign consultant Jeff Berman was "a Washington lobbyist who lobbied the State Department -- led, at the time, by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton -- on behalf of the company seeking to build the controversial Keystone XL pipeline."

Stein added, "After Berman left the Obama campaign, he joined the firm Bryan Cave, where he lobbied on behalf of several big-name clients. The most controversial of those clients was TransCanada, the multibillion-dollar company seeking a permit to complete the Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport Alberta's oil sands to refineries in Texas. According to public records, Berman lobbied for TransCanada from the second quarter of 2009 through the second quarter of 2011. Several other officials from Bryan Cave joined him on the account. For that work, the firm was paid $980,000."

Attorney Miguel Rodriguez, who has been representing longtime Clinton aide Huma Abedin during the ongoing Clinton email controversy as I reported in August, also works as a partner at the Bryan Cave law firm, and "registered to lobby for Ford Motor Co. on trade promotion authority legislation...amid a contentious fight between Obama and Hill Democrats, who blocked the trade legislation in the House last week. Clinton distanced herself from Obama Sunday, saying he should 'listen to and work with his allies in Congress,'" Legistorm reported on June 15, 2015. The Hill's Megan R. Wilson reported on July 22, 2014, "Ethics rules require Rodriguez to have a 'cooling off' period before he can register as a lobbyist, and additional rules imposed by Obama ban him from lobbying certain individuals in the executive branch."

"From 2005 to 2009, Rodriguez was Chief Counsel for then Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, serving as the Senator’s Legislative Director from 2008 until 2009," his Bryan Cave LLC bio states. "In these roles, Rodriguez worked with the Senator to formulate her policy agenda and led her legislative team in developing and implementing policy priorities."

Rodriguez is also defending Hillary Clinton campaign vice chairwoman Huma Abedin from Inspectors General claims that she "was overpaid by nearly $10,000 because of violations of rules governing vacation and sick leave during her tenure as an official in the department," the Washington Post reported in July.

On July 31, 2015, Maggie Haberman at the New York Times reported that Rodriguez was added to the board of a 'Super PAC' supporting Hillary Clinton: "Priorities USA, which has experienced upheaval at times over the last two years, is now seeking eight-figure checks to help bolster Mrs. Clinton in response to a flood of money pouring into Republican outside groups," Haberman reported.

6/2/15 update: Clinton campaign and Canadian bank duck questions from Ryan Grim and Paul Blumenthal at Huffington Post about speech fees; "Clinton's representatives" told University of California at Los Angeles $300,000 was a "special" discounted rate for colleges, but Canadian bank only paid $150,000 for speech plus meet-and-greet at investor conference

The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce may only appear once on former State Secretary Hillary Clinton's mandatory financial disclosure form, but the 2016 US presidential candidate seems to have netted close to ten percent of her recent speech income from the bank which has a history of "often" being investigated for fraud by the US. Since campaign officials and organizers duck multiple media inquiries, it's hard to get the whole financial picture just from what has been publicly revealed. But it appears that the foreign bank paid close to $900,000 for Hillary Clinton speeches just in the last eight months alone.

"Hillary Clinton gave 51 paid speeches for a total of nearly $12 million since January 2014," Josh Gerstein and Louis Nelson reported for Politico.

However, four-to-five of those speeches appear to have been sponsored by the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), and Clinton's fee also seemed to rise until she entered the presidential race.

Less than a year ago, Hillary Clinton was paid $150,000 for a speech in Toronto, Canada on June 16th and $100,000 for one in Edmonton two days later. Both events were handled by the two-man firm tinePublic - who have prospered booking many speeches by former US political leaders across Canada - including both President Bushes and Bill Clinton. Hillary Clinton earned $225,000 for a March speech handled by tinePublic in Calgary. Press accounts for both speeches in June only mentioned that they were to promote Hillary Clinton's book, "Hard Choices", and didn't mention any possible corporate sponsors.

But the Edmonton speech apparently included a moderated question-and-answer forum with Victor Dodig, who was Senior Executive Vice-President for CIBC, at the time. Not long after, in late July, Dodig was promoted to CEO and bank president.

And after an October 6, 2014 speech for a Canada 2020 event, Hillary Clinton did another "interview" with Dodig. But this earned Clinton more than double what she earned in Edmonton: $215,500. She earned $674,000 for three speeches sponsored by CIBC in 2015, but it's unclear if the bank also paid her $315,000 for the Edmonton and Ottawa sessions in 2014.

The Canada 2020 website placed CIBC first in a list of sponsors for the Ottawa speech at a "special" luncheon: "Join Canada 2020 for this special luncheon event featuring a keynote address from Secretary Clinton followed by an on-stage Q&A." And the photo credit for the picture of Dodig and Clinton - shown above - that it links to at Flicker, reads, "Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivered keynote remarks at a special Canada 2020 luncheon event sponsored by CIBC on Monday, October 6th 2014."

"Following her address in Ottawa Monday, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sat with CIBC CEO Victor Dodig for an informal interview," according to an October 6, 2014 report from Canada's iPOLITICS. "The two had met before in Edmonton, which Dodig reminisced on fondly."

Journalists following the Clinton 2016 presidential campaign as it travels across the US have complained that she went over three weeks without replying to questions from the press, but Dodig has essentially paid her for at least four "interviews" delivered to thousands of Canadians within the last year.

On Twitter, CNN political producer Dan Merica - who is currently covering the Clinton campaign - joked, "@cibc CEO Victor Dodig has interviewed Hillary Clinton 3x (Edmonton, Ottawa & Winnipeg) in the last yr. What U.S. news anchor can say that?"

In a Canadian newspaper article published in January called "Clinton Tickets Selling Fast" (which isn't currently readable on the internet), Andy McCreath of tinePublic Inc explained, "We did an event in June with Clinton in Edmonton and Toronto, and Victor was the moderator then and he was fantastic, so it was an easy decision" to do it again for the Winnipeg show this year.

January's speeches for the bank garnered some bad publicity for Hillary Clinton, before she officially entered the race, but media outlets noting the speeches didn't realize she may have earned double the amount that they estimated - since they didn't know about the January 22nd speech in Whistler and the bank's sponsorship of the Ottawa luncheon. Both the organizers and campaign officials ducked questions from multiple media outlets in Canada and the United States regarding details and fees.

"Clinton has given dozens of speeches since leaving office as Secretary of State, many for free and many drawing paychecks of as much as $200,000 to $300,000," McClatchy's Anita Kumar reported on January 19, 2015. "The Wednesday addresses could stand out, as they’ll be hosted by a foreign bank with a history of investigations by U.S. officials."
"In 2003, the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce settled a case with the Securities and Exchange Commission for $80 million for allegedly helping the Enron energy company mislead investors through a series of transactions over a period of several years, according to the SEC. At least two executives agreed to settle charges of aiding and abetting the fraud, paying a total of $600,000.

In 2005, CIBC settled another case with SEC for $125 million after it was accused of financing late trading to increase their customers' trading profits at the expense of long-term mutual fund shareholders, according to the SEC.

And again in 2005, the bank agreed to pay nearly a half million dollars to settle SEC allegations that it broke the law by underwriting municipal securities for the state of California after making campaign donations to six politicians, including former Democratic California Gov. Gray Davis, according to the SEC. Securities law forbids a corporate donor from doing municipal securities work for an issuer within two years of a contribution.
"Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce agreed yesterday to pay $2.4 billion to settle claims that it helped hide losses at the Enron Corporation, raising to $7.1 billion the sum that banks and other defendants have thus far agreed to pay to compensate investors," Jeff Bailey reported for The New York Times August 3, 2005. "The Enron lawsuit accused CIBC and other firms of creating false investments in elaborate and complex Enron partnerships that had the effect of deceiving investors and moving billions of dollars of debt off the company's balance sheet."

Even though it agreed to pay a few billion dollars, Bailey noted that "CIBC said it admitted no wrongdoing in the Enron matter, and that it had settled to avoid uncertainties of further litigation."

Reporting in 2009 for the Financial Post, John Greenwood wrote, "Four years after Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce paid a record $3-billion settlement to disentangle itself from Enron litigation, the spectre of the failed U.S. energy trader has come back to haunt Canada’s fifth-largest bank."

"CIBC disclosed Wednesday that it is preparing to go to court with the Canada Revenue Agency to defend its position that the settlement is tax-deductible," Greenwood noted. "If the bank wins it will recognize a tax benefit of $214-million, but if the government prevails CIBC could end up having to pay $826-million."

Another McClatchy article from January - "Hillary Clinton talks to be hosted by bank often investigated for wrongdoing" - noted, "Hillary Clinton, the presumed frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination, will give a pair of speeches on Wednesday in Canada hosted by a major bank that has been the subject of several investigations into wrongdoing over the past dozen years."

"Ms Clinton and the bank refused to say if she's being paid for the speeches," the story added. "But the appearances are all but certain to fuel complaints that she's too close to the corporate elites, especially coming a day after President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech focusing on the plight of the middle class and signs that several top Republicans also plan to make economic populism a centrepiece of their campaigns."
"More recently, it was hit with a series of class action lawsuits seeking $US4 billion over allegations that it did not adequately warn investors of its exposure to the US subprime market. In each case, even the ones in which CIBC settled, it denied any wrongdoing.

Clinton will speak in Winnipeg and Saskatoon as part of the Global Perspective speakers series sponsored by the Toronto-based bank with millions of clients and tens of thousands of employees. Tickets are being sold for the events that will be held in large arenas, at the RBC Winnipeg Convention Centre and the TCU Place.

CIBC and a Clinton spokesman did not respond to questions from McClatchy.
On January 20, 2015, Washington Free Beacon Staff noted, "Hillary Clinton will give two speeches Wednesday in Canada and is co-hosted by the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. The bank has recently come under investigation from the United States for helping wealthy Americans offshore money in the bank’s Caribbean accounts to avoid paying federal taxes."

"The Elizabeth Warren-supporting wing of the Democratic party has not been quiet in reminding people that Hillary Clinton has connections to Wall Street and big banks," the Free Beacon staff editorialized. "These poorly timed paid speeches will raise some eyebrows and show misgivings of Hillary Clinton’s connections."

On April 30. 2003, the US Department of Justice released a statement which "announced that late yesterday a federal court in San Francisco entered an order authorizing the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to serve a John Doe summons seeking information about U.S. taxpayers who may hold offshore accounts at Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce FirstCaribbean International Bank (FCIB). The order was signed by Senior District Judge Thelton E. Henderson. The IRS summons seeks records of FCIB’s United States correspondent account at Wells Fargo N.A., which will allow the IRS to identify U.S. taxpayers who hold or held interests in financial accounts at FCIB and other financial institutions that used FCIB’s Wells Fargo correspondent account."

Pursuant to a petition filed by the United States, the Court granted the IRS permission to serve what is known as a “John Doe” summons on Wells Fargo. The IRS uses John Doe summonses to obtain information about possible violations of internal revenue laws by individuals whose identities are unknown. This John Doe summons directs Wells Fargo to produce records identifying U.S. taxpayers with accounts at FCIB and other banks that used FCIB’s correspondent account.

According to the declaration of IRS Revenue Agent Cheryl R. Kiger filed in support of the petition, FCIB is based in Barbados and has branches in 18 Caribbean countries. Although FCIB does not have U.S. branches, it maintains a correspondent account in the United States at Wells Fargo Bank N.A. As alleged in Agent Kiger’s declaration, the IRS learned that U.S. taxpayers were using FCIB to help them keep their offshore accounts undetected by the IRS and not to pay U.S. federal income tax on money placed in those offshore accounts. Kiger’s declaration describes her review of the information submitted by more than 120 FCIB customers who participated in the IRS’s Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program. According to the Kiger declaration, many of the FCIB customers in the John Doe class may have been under-reporting income, evading income taxes, or otherwise violating the internal revenue laws of the United States.

“The Department of Justice and the IRS are committed to global enforcement to stop the use of foreign bank accounts to evade U.S. taxes,” said Kathryn Keneally, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Tax Division. “This John Doe summons is a visible indication of how we are using the many tools available to us to pursue this activity wherever it is occurring. Those who are still hiding should get right with their country and their fellow taxpayers before it is too late.”

“This summons marks another milestone in international tax enforcement,” said IRS Acting Commissioner Steven T. Miller. “Our work here shows our resolve to pursue these cases in all parts of the world, regardless of whether the person hiding money overseas chooses a bank with no offices on U.S. soil.”
In an article for The Guardian on May 27, 2013, James Ball reported, "The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has filed a 'John Doe' summons – a request for information on an unknown number of unnamed people – against US taxpayers with offshore accounts at FirstCaribbean International Bank (FCIB), who it suspects of having used accounts with the bank as parts of efforts to illegally evade US tax."

However, Ball noted, "The summons is seeking information on customers of FCIB or its predecessors who may have avoided US tax. It makes no application for information on the activities of the banks themselves, and nor does it suggest the banks had any intention of supporting, or direct knowledge of, such activities by their customers.
"A spokesman for Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, which has a majority stake in FCIB, said: We are committed to complying with all laws and regulatory requirements. We are working with Wells Fargo, our correspondent bank, to understand the nature of the order. It is our intention to co-operate with authorities in accordance with the respective laws of all jurisdictions involved.'"
"FCIB, based in Barbados, has branches in 18 Caribbean countries, was formed in 2002 by Britain’s Barclay’s Bank and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC)," Nanette Byrnes reported for Reuters on April 30, 2013. "In 2006, CIBC became the bank’s majority shareholder."

Hayden Boyce, Editor-in-Chief for, reported on May 6, 2013, "Reliable sources in Washington told the SUN that the Turks and Caicos Islands branches of CIBC FCIB will also be under scrutiny, because several Americans are known to have accounts in here."

In January, CBS News reported, "Clinton's speaking engagements like this one have drawn attention because of the high fees she commands. Her twin speeches Wednesday, in particular, have been criticized because CIBC has reportedly been the subject of federal fraud investigations. And while Clinton has said that the cash collected goes to her foundation, some have still used Clinton's lucrative speaking tour to tie her to the wealthy elite."

"Organizers did not respond to a request for information about whether Clinton was paid to speak in Winnipeg and, later Wednesday, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan," the CBS News story about the two known speeches in January.

Last December CNN's Dan Merica reported, "Clinton's events in Canada have run the gamut, from speeches at high priced dinners to question and answer sessions in theaters. Most have been promoted and organized by TINEPUBLIC, a special events and conference organizer in Canada. CNN's calls to the group went unanswered on Monday."

Although its numbers were off, the conservative leaning complained in April, "Since leaving the State Department in January 2013, Hillary has given six paid speeches in Canada. At $200,000 to $300,000 a speech or more, that’s between, $1.2 million and $1.8 million of personal income courtesy of the Canadians."

MSNBC also reported in January that "Gordon Giffin, a longtime Clinton donor who served as ambassador to Canada under Bill Clinton, is on the board of directors of the CIBC, the bank sponsoring Clinton’s appearance, and has lobbied for the company hoping to build the Keystone pipeline."

"Giffin, who as a “Hillraiser” bundler for Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign and has donated $1,000 to the pro-Clinton super PAC Ready for Hillary, is a lawyer specializing in international energy issues. His firm was a registered lobbyist for Transcanada for several years, and Giffin personally lobbied for the company trying to build Keystone pipeline in 2007 and 2008, according to Senate ethics records. Transcanada did not fully takeover the Keystone pipeline until 2009.

Giffin is also on the board of Canadian Natural Resources, an energy company pushing for Keystone to be built. Also on that board with him is his former counterpart, Frank McKenna, a former Canadian ambassador to the U.S. who has moderated discussions with Clinton on previous visits to Canada.
"A post in Canada, our biggest trade partner, brings plenty of future earnings potential," Muckety reported in April of 2011. Former US Ambassador to Canada "Gordon D. Giffin, named to the job by President Bill Clinton, received more than $990,000 (Canadian) last year in cash, stock and other compensation for his work on four Canadian corporate boards." Five years ago, while living in Atlanta, GA, Giffin was "director of Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, Canadian National Railway Company, TransAlta Corporation and Canadian Natural Resources Limited."

According to this Canadian Press article, around 2,000 people attended the Winnipeg speech Hillary Clinton gave - a day after President Obama's State of the Union address - and tickets sold for $300 each. "Tickets for Clinton's appearance in Saskatoon ranged from $96 to more than $300." The bank paid $524,500 for those speeches, and another $150,000 for one given in Whistler, Canada the day after on January 22, 2015, was for the bank itself, at the CIBC 18th Annual Whistler Institutional Investor Conference (link).

"Great afternoon with @CIBCEquities and @HillaryClinton talking social media & US/Canada ties at #CIBC2015Whistler," IntergulfGroup tweeted.

Dodig "interviewed" Clinton again, according to Quentin broad: "Meet & greet with @HillaryClinton followed by a speech & fireside chat with CIBC CEO Victor Dodig #cibcwhistler2015.

"I know it's been a busy schedule already. I said I'm extremely impressed with CIBC to bring in Hillary Clinton as a warm-up speaker for the uranium section is really kind of over the top. I thought so. Anyway, ...," Tim Gitzel, the president and CEO of Cameco Corporation, joked in an online transcript of a "fireside chat" with Tom Meyer - Executive Director, Institutional Equity Research, Base Metals & Minerals Analyst at CIBC - regarding the global uranium market held at 1:30 PM on January 22, 2015. (pdf link).

Later, in the transcript, Cameco CEO Gitzel references Hillary Clinton two more times, and he uses her words to pitch the case that uranium is the best option for foreign countries to power their electricity.
"So, you know, in countries—where are we seeing the growth? It's in countries, China, India, South Korea, Russia, countries with—Middle East now—big growing populations that need more electricity going forward, but they need large baseload electricity; electricity to run health care systems, transportation systems, education systems. I can tell you we're all for wind power. We love it. We love wind power and we love solar. You're not going to run a health system on solar power; not today you're not. You need backup power for that, and so what are your choices? You heard them from Hillary Clinton. I mean you've got coal. Some like, some don't like that. You've got oil; maybe, but not much electricity generated by oil anymore. Gas; gas is a big competitor for us in North America and you heard her, on a competitive basis, nuclear is—can't touch $2 gas. You've got hydro, and some like or don't like that. Try damming up a river up here somewhere and see how that goes over for you. So, you know, there's choices to be made. None of them are perfect. We think nuclear fits nice in Asia. We're spending a lot of our time now over in Asia with the Chinese, in South Korea. India's going to be a big market for us going forward. The Canadian government's been very helpful getting agreements in place that will allow us to ship our uranium into India, and if they can get coordinated with their build-out, it's going to be a big market as well."
2014-2015 Hillary Clinton speeches that appear to have been sponsored by CIBC:

tinePublic Inc. 6/18/2014 Edmonton, Canada $100,000

Canada 2020 10/6/2014 Ottawa, Canada $215,500

tinePublic Inc. 1/21/2015 Winnipeg, Canada $262,000

tinePublic Inc. 1/21/2015 Saskatoon, Canada $262,500

Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce 1/22/2015 Whistler, Canada $150,000