Ownership of Dominion Draws Scrutiny After Unusual Fundraising

By Emel Akan
Emel Akan
Emel Akan
Emel Akan is a senior White House correspondent for The Epoch Times, where she covers the Biden administration. Prior to this role, she covered the economic policies of the Trump administration. Previously, she worked in the financial sector as an investment banker at JPMorgan. She graduated with a master’s degree in business administration from Georgetown University.
December 15, 2020Updated: December 22, 2020

WASHINGTON—Dominion Voting Systems has come under scrutiny for its ownership structure after its parent company raised funds with the help of a Swiss bank before the 2020 U.S. presidential election. The transaction, peculiar in several ways, has led some to speculate that a Chinese entity could be an indirect investor in Dominion.

Staple Street Capital Group LLC, a New York-based private equity (PE) firm, acquired Dominion Voting Systems Corp. in 2018. The maker of electronic voting systems has been at the center of election fraud claims since Nov. 3.

UBS Securities LLC, the New York-based subsidiary of Swiss bank UBS, helped Staple Street raise $400 million from investors for its third fund on Oct. 8, according to public records.

The New York subsidiary operates as the investment banking division of the Swiss bank, providing investment and broker-dealer services to its global clients. In this transaction, UBS is assumed to serve as a placement agent, selling partnership interests of the PE fund to UBS’s clients.

The recent fundraising, however, prompted some to speculate that a Chinese entity or China-affiliated intermediary could be an investor in the fund, making it also an indirect owner of Dominion.

Dominion is a portfolio company of funds managed by Staple Street, and neither UBS nor the private equity firm have disclosed details of investors in its third fund despite questions surrounding Dominion’s ownership.

Staple Street raised this fund in an unusual way, as well. According to a Buyouts Insider article, the private equity firm received the money in a “one-and-done” deal, “pushing through marketing despite the pandemic-slowed fundraising environment.”

The article also mentions that while the third fund was targeting $400 million, it closed on $520 million in financing. And SEC filings suggest that UBS helped to raise the majority of the capital.

The speed and structure of the fundraising are abnormal, according to a senior executive at a large hedge fund in New York, who wished to remain anonymous.

“Typically, when you’re raising a commingled PE fund it is a year-long process with multiple closes. PE funds aren’t raised with just one close unless there’s a single strategic client taking up the entire fund, which may be the case if only one bank is involved.”

Staple Street didn’t respond to requests by The Epoch Times for comment.

UBS Abruptly Removes Chinese Board Members

Unusual activity also occurred in the New York subsidiary of UBS recently, in the weeks following Staple Street’s fundraising and the November U.S. elections.

NTD TV report on Dec. 5 showed that three board members of UBS Securities LLC appeared to be Chinese, including Luo Qiang, Ye Xiang, and Mu Lina, according to the company’s profile page on Bloomberg. Later, these names were taken down from the profile page, raising questions about whether the company made changes following media reports.

An LLC, or limited liability company, isn’t required to have a board of directors but it can choose to have one.

It’s unclear why these Chinese names appeared on the board of a New York subsidiary. UBS didn’t respond to requests by The Epoch Times for comment.

A closer look into these names showed that Luo Qiang has French nationality, and the other two are Chinese nationals. They all have very close ties to Beijing-based UBS Securities Co. Ltd. The Chinese regime owns 49 percent of the UBS in Beijing. In an unusual move, the Beijing subsidiary replaced 11 of 14 board members right after the U.S. 2020 election, according to the findings of an investigative documentary on the 2020 election by The Epoch Times.

Based on public information, Ye Xiang served on the board of UBS Securities Co. Ltd. until his name was removed. Ye had been chairman of the board at UBS Beijing for more than 10 years. He previously worked at the Chinese regime’s central bank, the state-owned Bank of China, as well as the Hong Kong government’s financial regulatory agencies. He is also the founder of a China-based asset management firm VisionGain Capital Limited.

Luo Qiang also served on the board of UBS Beijing between 2004 and 2012.

And Mu Lina worked as the director of wealth management funds and head of fund operations at UBS Beijing, based on public information. Mu was previously a board member of China TransInfo, a major surveillance camera producer in China. It provides big data and artificial intelligence to Chinese authorities. Its chairman is a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) member. Mu served as a board member at China TransInfo for the past six years until she left the position in September.

UBS group became the first foreign company to own a full securities operation license in China in 2018. UBS Beijing’s board and executives are all Chinese nationals with strong ties to the CCP.

Attorney Lin Wood, a member of President Donald Trump’s legal team, wrote on Twitter on Dec. 1, “Information being received NOW that Communist China purchased Dominion Voting on October 8 for $400M.” In a follow-up tweet, Wood mentioned the close ties between the New York and Beijing subsidiaries of UBS but didn’t elaborate on details of the connection between China and Dominion.

In response to allegations, Dominion published a statement on its website, saying the company “is a non-partisan American company.”

“No foreign national directly or indirectly owns or controls the company,” the statement read. “Dominion and other voting system manufacturers submit extensive company disclosures to federal and state authorities as terms of product testing and system certification. The company has no ownership ties whatsoever to UBS, or the governments of China, Cuba, or Venezuela.”

William E. Kennard has been serving as a member of the “Operating Executive Board” of Staple Street Capital since 2014, according to public information. Kennard was the chair of the Federal Communications Commission from 1997 to 2001 during the Clinton administration. And from 2009 to 2013, President Obama appointed him as the U.S. ambassador to the European Union. And on Nov. 7, 2020, AT&T announced Kennard as the new chairman of the board.

Shortly after the election on Nov. 3, Staple Street Capital’s website underwent a full transformation. All information about the company’s founders, management team, executive board, and investment portfolios were deleted, including its relationship with Dominion.

Dominion has also exhibited strange behavior. For example, more than 100 of its employees—a third of the total workforce—have erased their LinkedIn records, including Dominion’s employees in Serbia, when the company became a global focus after the election.

This article was updated on Dec. 22, 2020.

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