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Article VIII: The Lawyers: Lying, False Claims, Threats and Insanity: Social Ventures in Africa? by Brian Ray Dinning, JD, LLM and social venture lawyer

Article VIII:  The Lawyers:  Lying, False Claims, Threats and Insanity

 

By:  Brian Ray Dinning, JD, LLM and Social Venture Lawyer[1]

 

July 20, 2012

 

What does a lawyer who was suspended from practicing law for three years for making false claims against me and others and not being truthful with a court and other unprofessional and tortious behavior with a history of insanity have to do with this story? A LOT!  He is one of the lawyers for the bad press collaborators (see Articles III through VII at www.socialentrepreneurshipinafrica.com).   Jason Christopher Roper and his close friend and former law partner, George Bowles are the lawyers for the aggressive bad press campaign collaborators.  These two lawyers not only participated in most, if not all, of the aggressive bad press campaign, they are the two people who have profited substantially by representing this group – earning hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees.

 

George Bowles was the lawyer for Batte and Stiner.  Bowles contacted business associates of Pure Africa, Earth Conservancy and me in an effort to damage and discredit the social venture projects in South Africa and me and to support his claims.  On at least two occasions, Bowles contacted our business partners (general contractors and builders from Virginia who were overseeing the development work on the Wild Coast of South Africa) to discredit me and to engage in a fishing expedition to solicit them as clients in a possible legal action against me.  Interfering with and damaging existing business relationships, providing false and inflammatory information and then seeking to represent these people is wrong – it is illegal and actionable (tortious interference) but it is also against a lawyer’s code of ethics.

 

These actions by Bowles are not only unprofessional and unethical but they cost the projects hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost investment and the loss of two or more business relationships.  Our business relationships with general contractors a year or more to develop since the projects are in Africa and generally included one or more due diligence trips to South Africa.  Each time one of these relationships was destroyed by Bowles, it cost the social venture projects in time, money and valuable resources.  Bowles and his clients also sent confidential and privileged information to Bossie Bosman, which was used to discredit us in South Africa with the government, our professional team, our local community partners and our business partners.[2]  He also admittedly shared confidential and privileged information with his good friend and former partner Roper.  It is unclear whether Bowles’ law firm, Williams Mullen is aware of the tortious, interfering and damaging conduct.[3]

 

Jason Christopher Roper was actively involved in the aggressive negative press campaign in an illegal and actionable way as well.  He openly advertised for new clients on the blog of Jeff Brown and he admitted to contacting the South African government and others in an effort to damage and discredit the projects and me.  He also admitted to working in concert with and sharing confidential and protected information with his good friend, Bowles.  Together, these two worked hard to damage and discredit the projects and me and they profited handsomely from their efforts through the payment of legal fees by Batte, Stiner and the other bad press campaign collaborators.[4]

 

The contact by Roper and Bowles to the government of South Africa, to Sotheby’s International Realty, to Pam Golding Properties and others stopped our projects on at least three specific instances directly:  at Mdumbi Bay with Fresh Properties,[5] at Hole in the Wall with Sotheby’s International Realty,[6] and with Pam Golding Properties.[7]  Each time this occurred, it stopped the marketing campaign and cost the social venture projects millions of dollars in revenue.  This revenue would have been used to repay our financial partners and to provide for a financial return to the local community and the social venture partners.  It is unclear how many indirect opportunities were lost to the bad press campaign but I know of several instances where business relationships ended due to the blog of Jeff Brown and others.

 

Many times, we tried to stop them from interfering by sending letters of support and seeking endorsements from all of our professional team members.[8]  We also sought and received endorsement letters and support from the Government of South Africa including South African President Jacob Zuma, National Cabinet Members and National and local government.[9]

 

Roper and Bowles coordinated the legal attack on me and the social venture projects to line their pockets with legal fees.  Instead of simply asking the social venture projects for a return of their money, they sued first using a generic fraud complaint.  Since the only way to get to an individual personally instead of the business is by alleging fraud, they started off by using a general allegation of fraud to file a lawsuit against me personally as well as against the social venture companies.  In the first three cases, the social venture partners and myself settled three lawsuits by paying back the investors in full with interest and attorneys’ fees.  The next legal battle was with the Stiners.  The social venture companies would have eventually paid them back as well when funding was available to settle the lawsuit but the damage that they did to the social venture projects through the aggressive bad press campaign plus the death threats against me led us to agree that settling the lawsuit was not appropriate and a countersuit was filed.  It was then that the Stiners dismissed their lawsuit forever.  The final lawsuit (other than the $30 million lawsuit pending against the bad press campaign club filed by me) was a lawsuit filed by Roper.  This suit cost Jason Christopher Roper his job because my legal counsel and I were present when the senior partners of his firm at McKenry Dancigars said to him that “there is no case.”  Roper continued with the lawsuit contrary to his firm’s advice and was fired.  Strangely, he then reportedly attempted to commit suicide, was hospitalized and then continued to practice law until his recent suspension.[10]

 

I was finally able to achieve a small victory with Roper through the Virginia State Bar.  Judge Karen Burrell documented Roper’s negative, unprofessional and attacking behavior against me in both correspondence and court order.[11]  On February 17, 2012, Jason Christopher Roper was suspended from practicing law for three years by the Virginia State Bar.  The announcement from the Virginia State Bar reads:

 

     “Jason Christopher Roper, 702 Lakeview Court, Mars, PA 16046

VSB Docket Nos. 09-021-080040, 10-021-080199, 10-021-080602

On February 17, 2012, the Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board suspended Jason Christopher Roper’s license to practice law for three years for violating rules governing candor toward the tribunal; fairness to opposing party or counsel; respect for rights of third persons; confidentiality of information; conflict of interest: general rule; conflict of interest: former client; declining or terminating representation; meritorious claims and contentions; ; communication with persons represented by counsel; bar admission and disciplinary matters; and misconduct.”

 

This, in turn, gave me the necessary evidence to prepare and file the current $30 million lawsuit including claims for federal civil RICO against Jason Christopher Roper, George Bowles and the bad press campaign collaborators.  My goal with the lawsuit is to fight for the rights of the social venture partners, the investors and donors, the local poor communities in Africa and me against this negative and actionable conduct by a small group of people. These people cost us millions of dollars in potential profit, millions of dollars of costs and expenses and years of hard work and effort for the people of Africa.

 

Just to highlight the attacking, unprofessional and unbalanced thinking of this group, Roper sent this scary and threatening email to me:

 

“Mr. Dinning:

Good morning and congratulations on your indictment!  May you enjoy the next twenty to thirty years in a nice federal peneteniary without the comforts of your bimbo wife, your kids, or the finer things in life . . . Don’t worry about your wife.  If she appears at your trial, I will make sure to inform her that if she needs a good serving, she can always give me a call. 

 

Laughing still.

Jason C. Roper”

 

My legal counsel responded with:

“Mr. Roper –

I was just forwarded your communication with Mr. Dinning.  Note that your communication itself, as well as the content, are not only violative of PA ethical rules, but are unlawful in and of themselves.  Besides being disgusting and offensive. 

Given your history of unstable and violent behavior, I must take your statements, especially as to threatened sexual assault on Mrs. Dinning, as real threats to her well being and report the same as well as insist that you never, in any manner, communicate with my client again.  If you do so, appropriate legal action will be taken in Pennsylvania. 

I’m not saying this to argue with you, and I will not respond to any response or argument that you make in return.  You either comply or don’t.  If you don’t, I will take appropriate action.”

After sending this to my lawyer, misconduct bar complaints were filed by my legal counsel and me in both Virginia and Pennsylvania for this shocking and threatening behavior.

This is not the conduct of rational people.  What I have shared with you is the actual, documented conduct of some of our financial partners and their legal counsel in social ventures in Africa.  It is also the conduct of the principle instigators behind the current charges pending against me in the United States as a final blow in their aggressive bad press campaign.

 

While I am happy to face them in court, I wanted to tell my side of the story and to share with you my heart for the people of Africa.  While no one is perfect, all of my consulting fees, expenses, personal expenses and draw compensation was documented in consulting agreements and authorized by the social venture companies.  You do not have to take my word for it though, as I have attached a letter from one of our social venture partners, Dr. William Brown, Ph.D Professor and Fulbright Scholar to Assistant US Attorney Steve Haynie in February, 2012.  In this letter, Dr. Brown (which can be supported and corroborated by “dozens of people” according to Dr. Brown) openly discusses the aggressive bad press campaign and the fact that my consulting fees and expenses were all authorized and approved by the Board of Directors and by my consulting agreements.[12]

 

While I am happy to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth in court, I can tell you that my reputation, family and over 16 years of work on social ventures has been irreparably damaged by this unjust process.  The truly sad thing is that the real impact of this will be against the local people in Africa, who were and are counting on us for help not to mention the wildlife that is counting on us for safety and protection.[13]  I can only hope that others will take up the cause of social ventures in Africa (despite the risks I have described) and help the local people of Africa to help preserve and conserve their land and natural resources for future generations to enjoy.

 

 


[1] My background is at http://www.avvo.com/attorneys/23321-va-brian-dinning-629141.html

[2] George Bowles, for his part in the aggressive bad press campaign, is listed as one of the defendants in the pending $30 million lawsuit by me and Pure Africa to reclaim some of the damage caused by their reckless and intentional actions in damaging me and the social venture projects.  Our goal is to ensure that the projects move forward for the benefit of the local communities in Africa.

 [4] Jason Christopher Roper has already been suspended for three years from practicing law for his unprofessional and attacking conduct against me by the Virginia State Bar as documented by Judge Karen Burrell in both correspondence and court order.  Jason Roper, for his part in the aggressive bad press campaign, is listed as one of the defendants in the pending $30 million lawsuit by me and Pure Africa to reclaim some of the damage caused by their reckless and intentional actions in damaging me and the social venture projects.  For his background, see http://www.avvo.com/attorneys/15219-pa-jason-roper-537025/reviews.html

[6] Sotheby’s emails.

[10] It should also be noted that Jason Christopher Roper was fired from his last two law firms (Blumling & Gusky and McKenry Dancigars) and it is reported to me by other attorneys that he was fired from two previous law firms for similarly bizarre and unprofessional behavior.

[11] See Letter from Judge Karen Burrell.  Article 8 FN Judge Burrell Letter re Roper

[12] See Letter of Dr. William Brown to Steve Haynie, Asst. US Attorney  Article 1 FN 1 Letter from William Brown to Mr. Haynie

[13] Letter from Xolile at Mdumbi Bay Community Trust.  Article 8 FN Xolile 2012 Letter

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Article II: Social Ventures in Africa: What Can Go Wrong? By Brian Ray Dinning, JD, LLM

Article 2:  Social Ventures in Africa:  What can go Wrong?

By:  Brian Ray Dinning, JD, LLM and Social Venture Lawyer

June 29, 2012

Sometimes committing your life to a worthy cause like social ventures comes with many challenges and obstacles such as:  differing world views, different goals and objectives (especially from banks and investors who have financial goals rather than the founders and social venture partners who generally have charitable and social goals as well as financial goals), the unpredictable nature of people and a limitless host of other complications and factors.  Business and social ventures are hard work – let alone business and social ventures in Africa, where resources, personnel and supplies can be scarce and corruption, violence and theft are rampant.

 

The US Government published that over 50% of all businesses started in the US fail within the first five years.[1]  New Venture Lab – Equipping Christian Entrepreneurs, quotes interesting statistics from Harvard Business School noting that the failure rate of businesses can be as high as 95% (depending on how you define failure).  Their website, quoting a Harvard Business professor, provides:

 

“Most companies fail. It’s an unsettling fact for bright-eyed entrepreneurs, but old news to start-up veterans. 

 

But here’s the good news: Experienced entrepreneurs know that running a company that eventually fails can actually help a career, but only if the executives are willing to view failure as a potential for improvement.

 

The statistics are disheartening no matter how an entrepreneur defines failure. If failure means liquidating all assets, with investors losing most or all the money they put into the company, then the failure rate for start-ups is 30 to 40 percent, according to Shikhar Ghosh, a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School who has held top executive positions at some eight technology-based start-ups. If failure refers to failing to see the projected return on investment, then the failure rate is 70 to 80 percent. And if failure is defined as declaring a projection and then falling short of meeting it, then the failure rate is a whopping 90 to 95 percent.

 

“Very few companies achieve their initial projections,” says Ghosh. “Failure is the norm.”[2]

 

 

While this is the reality for businesses in the United States, a University of South Africa study indicates that the rate of small business failure in South Africa can be as high as 80%.[3]  MIT and other business schools note that the failure rate of social ventures will likely follow that of other for-profit businesses.

 

The challenge is to continue working to improve the lives of the 400 million people living on less than $1.25 per day in Africa regardless of past failures or challenges.  As Nelson Mandela states, “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”  Quoting Vinod Khosla, billionaire venture capitalist and co-founder of Sun Microsystems: “There needs to be more experiments in building sustainable businesses going after the market for the poor. It has to be done in a sustainable way. There is not enough money to be given away in the world to make the poor well off.”[4] Researchers on social ventures at Duke note that: “We live in an age in which the boundaries between the government, nonprofit, and business sectors are blurring. This blurring results from a search for more innovative, cost-effective, and sustainable ways to address social problems and deliver socially important goods, such as basic education and health care.”[5]

 

Furthermore, Dees and Anderson realize that social venture projects and social entrepreneurs focus on the social impact of social venture projects and business-minded people focus on the financial returns thereby creating complexity.  “It is extremely hard to make strategic decisions about resource allocation or practical cost/quality tradeoffs when the social impact of these decisions is nearly impossible to measure in an efficient, timely, and reliable fashion.  It can become all too easy to focus too heavily on the more familiar, tangible and straightforward economic measures of success.”[6]

 

Businesses including social ventures fail for many reasons.  A New York Times columnist notes the top 10 reasons for small business failure:

 

“1. The math just doesn’t work. There is not enough demand for the product or service at a price that will produce a profit for the company.

 

2. Owners who cannot get out of their own way. They may be stubborn, risk averse, conflict averse — meaning they need to be liked by everyone (even employees and vendors who can’t do their jobs). They may be perfectionist, greedy, self-righteous, paranoid, indignant or insecure. You get the idea. Sometimes, you can even tell these owners the problem, and they will recognize that you are right — but continue to make the same mistakes over and over.

 

3. Out-of-control growth. This one might be the saddest of all reasons for failure — a successful business that is ruined by over-expansion. This would include moving into markets that are not as profitable, experiencing growing pains that damage the business, or borrowing too much money in an attempt to keep growth at a particular rate. Sometimes less is more.

 

4. Poor accounting. You cannot be in control of a business if you don’t know what is going on. With bad numbers, or no numbers, a company is flying blind, and it happens all of the time. Why? For one thing, it is a common — and disastrous — misconception that an outside accounting firm hired primarily to do the taxes will keep watch over the business. In reality, that is the job of the chief financial officer, one of the many hats an entrepreneur has to wear until a real one is hired.

 

5. Lack of a cash cushion. If we have learned anything from this recession (I know it’s “over” but my customers don’t seem to have gotten the memo), it’s that business is cyclical and that bad things can and will happen over time — the loss of an important customer or critical employee, the arrival of a new competitor, the filing of a lawsuit. These things can all stress the finances of a company. If that company is already out of cash (and borrowing potential), it may not be able to recover.

 

6. Operational mediocrity. I have never met a business owner who described his or her operation as mediocre. But we can’t all be above average. Repeat and referral business is critical for most businesses, as is some degree of marketing (depending on the business).

 

7. Operational inefficiencies. Paying too much for rent, labor, and materials. Now more than ever, the lean companies are at an advantage. Not having the tenacity or stomach to negotiate terms that are reflective of today’s economy may leave a company uncompetitive.

 

8. Dysfunctional management. Lack of focus, vision, planning, standards and everything else that goes into good management. Throw fighting partners or unhappy relatives into the mix and you have a disaster.

 

9. The lack of a succession plan. We’re talking nepotism, power struggles, significant players being replaced by people who are in over their heads — all reasons many family businesses do not make it to the next generation.

 

10. A declining market. Book stores, music stores, printing businesses and many others are dealing with changes in technology, consumer demand, and competition from huge companies with more buying power and advertising dollars.

 

In life, you may have forgiving friends and relatives, but entrepreneurship is rarely forgiving. Eventually, everything shows up in the soup. If people don’t like the soup, employees stop working for you, and customers stop doing business with you.  And that is why businesses fail.”[7]

 

 

Aside from the ten reasons noted above, in my experience with social ventures in Africa, the ventures did not work out as planned because of differences in goals and objectives between the partners, tension between the profit-making side and the social aspect of helping people and outlandish, intentional and unprofessional (and sometimes criminal) behavior and actions of others which interfered with, delayed or handicapped the social ventures.

 

Of all the reasons for small business and social venture failure noted above, it would be the outlandish, intentional and unprofessional (and sometimes criminal) behavior and actions of others, which caused our social ventures in Africa to either fail, be delayed or become handicapped.  In order to fully illustrate this point and to tell my side of the story, I will publish this seven part series complete with documents, video, photos, letters and email.

 

In addition to documents, video, photos, letters and email, there are also witnesses to most or all of this outlandish behavior including from the perpetrators themselves.  While some of these people are looking forward to a day in court against me, they will have to take the witness stand (under penalties of perjury) and answer for their outlandish behavior and actions and, hopefully, they will understand how their actions harmed the social venture projects, other investors and donors and the local people of Africa.

 

 

Article 3 is entitled:  Social Ventures in Africa:  Wextrust Capital – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

 

 

 

 

 


[1] Small Business Administration

[3] Mabaso, NR, University of South Africa (March 2008).

[4] MIT Entrepreneurship Review: From the Lab to the Land: Social Entrepreneurs Explore Appropriate Technology Dissemination (Nov. 26, 2010).

[5] Dees and Anderson, Duke Social Entrepreneurship: “For Profit Social Ventures,” (2003).

[6] Id.

[7] Goltz, J., “Top 10 Reasons Small Businesses Fail,” New York Times (Jan. 5, 2011).

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Virginia lawmakers unanimously pass “social venture” legislation with B Corporation by Ray Dinning tax lawyer

Passing unanimously in the Virginia House of Delegates is the new “social venture” vehicle called the “B Corporation” or “Benefit Corporation” which is a vehicle designed to promote the social ventures that I and others have been promoting in Africa and elsewhere around the world.  With the structure of a corporation and some unique characteristics of tax exempt charitable organizations, this is the wave of the future with six States adopting similar legislation and up to 18 other states with laws in the works.

Interestingly, this movement stems back to a lot of original work by nonprofit guru, Michael I. Sanders.  In helping him with research on “Partnerships and Joint Ventures Involving Tax Exempt Organizations (Wiley & Sons 1994), I learned the foundational work on social ventures which has culminated in the need for structures like Virginia’s B Corporation.

Please read the exempt from the Squire Sanders law firm website below:

As of July 1, 2011, Virginia becomes one of the early adopters among states that will permit social entrepreneurs to legally create a new corporate form known as a “benefit corporation.” This new form of corporate entity is intended to permit social entrepreneurs to codify their missions in their corporate charters. This permits the board of directors and management of a benefit corporation to pursue and take societal benefits and social goals into account in exercising their fiduciary discretion instead of being required to act strictly in the best interest of shareholders, a change that eliminates concerns over liability for breach of fiduciary duty under existing corporate law.

Pursuing Public Benefit

The law is modeled on a similar statute enacted by Maryland in 2010, and similar proposals are pending in a number of other states. Virginia’s legislation improves upon Maryland’s statute and makes Virginia the preferred jurisdiction for social entrepreneurs. Virginia’s benefit corporation statute, which is codified as Sections 13.1-782 to -791 of the Virginia Stock Corporation Act, requires that the corporation’s purpose include pursuit of “general public benefit.” The legislation broadly defines “general public benefit” to mean “a material positive impact on society and the environment taken as a whole, as measured by a third-party standard, from the business and operations of a benefit corporation.” However, it also allows benefit corporations to pursue specific public good purposes, including any benefit that serves one or more public welfare, religious, charitable, scientific, literary or educational purposes, or another purpose or benefit beyond the strict interest of the shareholders of the benefit corporation, such as:

Providing low-income or underserved individuals or communities with beneficial products or services;
Promoting economic opportunity for individuals or communities beyond the creation of jobs in the normal course of business;
Preserving or improving the environment;
Improving human health;
Promoting the arts, sciences or advancement of knowledge; or
Increasing the flow of capital to entities with a public benefit purpose.

The statute allows entrepreneurs to commit their for-profit ventures to a specific public good, requires directors and officers to take specified public good interest into account in corporate decisions and actions, and requires them to report on contributions to that goal and submit to auditing of their impact. The statute includes remedial provisions for shareholders to take action against directors and officers who fail to consider the specific public benefit in their decision making and actions. Having official “benefit corporation” status allows entrepreneurs to consider stakeholders such as employees, communities or the environment in business decisions.

Eliminating Risk of Lawsuits and Reducing Costs

Under existing corporate law, company directors may face lawsuits for acting on social objectives if contrary to the financial interest of shareholders, but this statute eliminates that risk. Social entrepreneurs have often faced difficulty fitting their hybrid missions of making money and doing good into existing business entity forms. The variety of arrangements historically utilized (e.g., nonprofits controlling for-profits) can be costly to set up and operate, and often limit the ability to raise money from outside investors. By allowing for the adoption of the “benefit corporation” form of entity, Virginia has permitted its economic institutions – in this case the laws that govern corporations – to keep up with the growing interest in the social enterprise sector.

Many expect that the new legal designation will unlock new capital for social ventures from investors who want to park their money in mission-driven companies.

Enacting the Law

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R.) signed the bill on March 26, 2011 at the end of Virginia’s legislative session. The bill, sponsored by Democratic state delegate Jennifer McClellan, passed Virginia’s Senate unanimously and passed the House of Delegates by a vote of 97-0.

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US Universities speculating on African farmland by Ray Dinning

US universities in Africa ‘land grab’
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011…rica-land-grab
Institutions including Harvard and Vanderbilt reportedly use hedge funds to buy land in deals that may force farmers out

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John Vidal and Claire Provost
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 8 June 2011 20.18 BST
Article history

Farmers work in thhe Sahara desert
US universities are reportedly using endowment funds to make deals that may force thousands from their land in Africa. Photograph: Boston Globe via Getty Images

Harvard and other major American universities are working through British hedge funds and European financial speculators to buy or lease vast areas of African farmland in deals, some of which may force many thousands of people off their land, according to a new study.

Researchers say foreign investors are profiting from “land grabs” that often fail to deliver the promised benefits of jobs and economic development, and can lead to environmental and social problems in the poorest countries in the world.

The new report on land acquisitions in seven African countries suggests that Harvard, Vanderbilt and many other US colleges with large endowment funds have invested heavily in African land in the past few years. Much of the money is said to be channelled through London-based Emergent asset management, which runs one of Africa’s largest land acquisition funds, run by former JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs currency dealers.

Researchers at the California-based Oakland Institute think that Emergent’s clients in the US may have invested up to $500m in some of the most fertile land in the expectation of making 25% returns.

Emergent said the deals were handled responsibly. “Yes, university endowment funds and pension funds are long-term investors,” a spokesman said. “We are investing in African agriculture and setting up businesses and employing people. We are doing it in a responsible way … The amounts are large. They can be hundreds of millions of dollars. This is not landgrabbing. We want to make the land more valuable. Being big makes an impact, economies of scale can be more productive.”

Chinese and Middle Eastern firms have previously been identified as “grabbing” large tracts of land in developing countries to grow cheap food for home populations, but western funds are behind many of the biggest deals, says the Oakland institute, an advocacy research group.

The company that manages Harvard’s investment funds declined to comment. “It is Harvard management company policy not to discuss investments or investment strategy and therefore I cannot confirm the report,” said a spokesman. Vanderbilt also declined to comment.

Oakland said investors overstated the benefits of the deals for the communities involved. “Companies have been able to create complex layers of companies and subsidiaries to avert the gaze of weak regulatory authorities. Analysis of the contracts reveal that many of the deals will provide few jobs and will force many thousands of people off the land,” said Anuradha Mittal, Oakland’s director.

In Tanzania, the memorandum of understanding between the local government and US-based farm development corporation AgriSol Energy, which is working with Iowa University, stipulates that the two main locations – Katumba and Mishamo – for their project are refugee settlements holding as many as 162,000 people that will have to be closed before the $700m project can start. The refugees have been farming this land for 40 years.

In Ethiopia, a process of “villagisation” by the government is moving tens of thousands of people from traditional lands into new centres while big land deals are being struck with international companies.

The largest land deal in South Sudan, where as much as 9% of the land is said by Norwegian analysts to have been bought in the last few years, was negotiated between a Texas-based firm, Nile Trading and Development and a local co-operative run by absent chiefs. The 49-year lease of 400,000 hectares of central Equatoria for around $25,000 (£15,000) allows the company to exploit all natural resources including oil and timber. The company, headed by former US Ambassador Howard Eugene Douglas, says it intends to apply for UN-backed carbon credits that could provide it with millions of pounds a year in revenues.

In Mozambique, where up to 7m hectares of land is potentially available for investors, western hedge funds are said in the report to be working with South Africans businesses to buy vast tracts of forest and farmland for investors in Europe and the US. The contracts show the government will waive taxes for up to 25 years, but few jobs will be created.

“No one should believe that these investors are there to feed starving Africans, create jobs or improve food security,” said Obang Metho of Solidarity Movement for New Ethiopia. “These agreements – many of which could be in place for 99 years – do not mean progress for local people and will not lead to food in their stomachs. These deals lead only to dollars in the pockets of corrupt leaders and foreign investors.”

“The scale of the land deals being struck is shocking”, said Mittal. “The conversion of African small farms and forests into a natural-asset-based, high-return investment strategy can drive up food prices and increase the risks of climate change.

Research by the World Bank and others suggests that nearly 60m hectares – an area the size of France – has been bought or leased by foreign companies in Africa in the past three years.

“Most of these deals are characterised by a lack of transparency, despite the profound implications posed by the consolidation of control over global food markets and agricultural resources by financial firms,” says the report.

“We have seen cases of speculators taking over agricultural land while small farmers, viewed as squatters, are forcibly removed with no compensation,” said Frederic Mousseau, policy director at Oakland, said: “This is creating insecurity in the global food system that could be a much bigger threat to global security than terrorism. More than one billion people around the world are living with hunger. The majority of the world’s poor still depend on small farms for their livelihoods, and speculators are taking these away while promising progress that never happens.”

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Section 45 Federal Tax Credits by Ray Dinning, lawyer

International Tax Partners is seeing a significant rise in Section 45 Tax Credit projects for the production of refined coal, waste coal and steel industry fuel.  Ray Dinning, tax lawyer, is working with six companies in Virginia, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Kentucky on Section 45 Tax Credits since October, 2010.  “The rapid rise in tax credit projects under Section 45 is due to small to mid-sized coal producers just beginning to hear about the Federal Tax Benefits of Section 45.”

Section 45 Federal Tax Credits provide a dollar for dollar tax reduction for coal producers or the tax credits can be monetized or “sold” to provide needed cash flow to small and mid-sized businesses.  For more information, call International Tax Partners at (202) 460-1116.

 

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