The county records allow for comparing the assessed value of the postal properties before they were sold to the final sales prices negotiated by CBRE [Commercial Real Estate Services] on behalf of the Postal Service: And the comparisons reveal that CBRE has sold the bulk of this public real estate at prices under their assessed values — and apparently at far below fair market values.
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CBRE is also charged with appraising the fair market value of these properties and listing a reasonable sales price. It is important to point out that real estate appraisals are not customarily performed by the agent marketing the property. To avoid conflicts of interest, property appraisals are normally performed by professionals not involved in negotiating the sale.
– Peter Byrne from his book Going Postal
We’ve all heard about how the [Rothschild] Russian oligarchs amassed their tremendous fortunes in the wake of the collapse of the former Soviet Union by purchasing valuable assets for pennies on the dollar using shady insider deals.
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The oligarchs in the USA have learned their lessons in crony capitalism well, and unsurprisingly, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree in this case. Dianne Feinstein is one of the most shameless, authoritarian, undemocratic Senators we have, so it is no surprise that the Princess of Darkness’ husband would be involved in schemes to rip-off public assets to benefit friends and his commercial real estate firm C.B. Richard Ellis.
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The following excerpts are from an article published in the East Bay Express and consists of passages from the introductory chapter of a new e-book, Going Postal, by investigative journalist Peter Byrne. There is some epic fraud going on here:
On July 27, two hundred people sang and chanted on the steps of the historic main post office in downtown Berkeley to protest its upcoming closure and sale. City Councilman Jesse Arreguin took the microphone to angrily decry the closure. In fact, the Berkeley City Council had voted unanimously to oppose the sale. Why the day of rage?
But inconvenience alone did not account for the existential angst being expressed by the mostly over-fifty members of the throng as they questioned the motives of the United States Postal Service for selling post offices all over the country to developers. “Which of our public assets will be privatized next?” speakers asked. “Streets? Schools? The Lincoln Bedroom?”
The post office is being killed for political reasons, they assert, pointing out that
the corporation with the exclusive contract to negotiate sales for the Postal Service’s $85 billion real estate portfolio is C.B. Richard Ellis (CBRE). And that the company is chaired by Richard C. Blum, who is the husband of US Senator Dianne Feinstein and a member of the University of California Board of Regents.
CBRE’s connection to a politically powerful family with a history of accessing public pension funds to make private investments has caused more than a few activists to suspect wrongdoing — even though no evidence of any conflicts of interest tied to the CBRE contract have been revealed.
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My yearlong investigation has uncovered evidence of multiple conflicts of interest and problems with post office sales supervised by Blum’s [Feinstein] company, including:
• CBRE appears to have repeatedly violated its contractual duty to sell postal properties at or above fair market values.
• CBRE has sold valuable postal properties to developers at prices that appear to have been steeply discounted from fair market values, resulting in the loss of tens of millions of dollars in public revenue.
• In a series of apparently non-arm’s-length transactions, CBRE negotiated the sale of postal properties all around the country to its own clients and business partners, including to one of its corporate owners, Goldman Sachs Group.
• CBRE has been paid commissions as high as 6 percent by the Postal Service for representing both the seller and the buyer in many of the negotiations, thereby raising serious questions as to whether CBRE was doing its best to obtain the highest price possible for the Postal Service.
• Senator Feinstein has lobbied the Postmaster General on behalf of a redevelopment project in which her husband’s company was involved.
The county records allow for comparing the assessed value of the postal properties before they were sold to the final sales prices negotiated by CBRE on behalf of the Postal Service:
And the comparisons reveal that CBRE has sold the bulk of this public real estate at prices under their assessed values — and apparently at far below fair market values.
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When these findings were shared with Chuck Zlatkin, Legislative and Political Director of the New York Metro Area Postal Union, he said, “Shocking as this information is, it is not surprising because we have seen a pattern of corruption at the Post Office ever since the manufacture of the health care benefit prepayment crisis.
It is certainly not permissible for CBRE to sell property paid for by the public to its own business partners, or to anyone else, at a discount. In my opinion,CBRE’s conflicts of interest contain an element of fraud.”
CBRE Group Inc. was given a list of the key facts and analysis reported in this investigation. Through its spokesman Philip Russo, the company declined to comment.
Of course they did…
CBRE is also charged with appraising the fair market value of these properties and listing a reasonable sales price. It is important to point out that real estate appraisals are not customarily performed by the agent marketing the property.
To avoid conflicts of interest, property appraisals are normally performed by professionals not involved in negotiating the sale.
Responding to a FOIA request through a staff attorney, Postmaster Patrick Donahoe categorically refused to disclose CBRE’s appraisals.
Attorney Jeff Meadows said that CBRE’s appraisals do not need to be disclosed to the public because such information is “commercially sensitive” and it is comparable to a “national security” secret (even though the appraisals are not classified).
The Postal Service eventually released the final sales price for each property sold by CBRE and CBRE’s sales invoices, which recorded the amount of its commissions (2 to 6 percent).
The appraisal figures, however, remain secret.
If the public finds out the appraisal values the terrorists win!
During the first two years of its contract, CBRE sold the 52 properties it had picked to market for millions of dollars less than their assessed values.
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For example, in Seattle, CBRE sold a post office building in 2011 for $8 million that was assessed at $16 million.
And earlier this year, it sold a seventeen-story office building in St. Paul, Minnesota for $20 million under the 2009 value assessed for it shortly before it was put on the market by CBRE.
But in a series of non-arm’s-length transactions, CBRE has sold 20 percent of its postal portfolio to its own clients and/or business partners.
In Boston, it sold a parcel at a large discount of its assessed value to a developer with whom it was partnered.
And it sold another Boston parcel to one of its largest shareholders, Goldman Sachs Group.
Real estate industry ethics require agents to get the best deal for their clients (in this case, the US Postal Service), not for their business partners and owners.
CBRE kept the entire seller/buyer commission of up to 6 percent in 34 of 52 transactions.
In the majority of these deals, CBRE appears to have represented the interests of the buyer as well as those of the seller, even though CBRE was originally contracted to represent only the interests of the Postal Service.
Astonishingly, CBRE’s contract was amended in 2012, at the request of CBRE, to allow it to negotiate on behalf of both the Postal Service and prospective buyers.
The Postal Service was given a list of the key facts and analysis reported in this investigation. Through his spokesman, David Partenheimer, Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe declined to comment.
Now for the kicker:
Richard C. Blum [Feinstein] did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
You know what this makes me want to say: USA! USA!
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