Electric car startup GreenTech Automotive, which set up a factory in Horn Lake, Mississippi to manufacturer their low speed neighborhood EV called MyCar, is being investigated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for the way it solicited foreign investors. GreenTech Automotive was co-founded by Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe, who is a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee. McAuliffe resigned as chairman of GreenTech in late 2012 when he started his campaign.
According to the Washington Post, the SEC subpoenaed documents relating to GreenTech and Gulf Coast Funds Management, a sister company that shares a McLean, Virginia address with GreenTech. Gulf Coast Funds is run by Anthony Rodham, whose sister, is former U.S. senator and secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton. The Commission is looking into allegations that the company guaranteed returns to foreign investors that GreenTech sought out by using the federal EB-5 program that will grant foreigners visas to the United States if they invest half a million dollars or more to create jobs in this country. GreenTech has a strategic partnership with China’s JAC Motors.
SEC officials declined comment and a spokesman for McAuliffe’s campaign said he “has no knowledge of any investigation.” GreenTech and Gulf Coast representatives confirmed the subpoenas and said the companies would cooperate with the SEC investigation. The investigation came to light when internal Department of Homeland Security documents and emails were obtained by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), a critic of the EB-5 visas. Some of the documents raised the possibility of “fraud”.
McAuliffe originally said he would build a factory “right in the heart of Virginia,” but after getting incentives from state and local governments in Mississippi, GreenTech located their factory in Horn Lake. Republican Gov. Haley Barbour attended the July 2012 ribbon cutting ceremony, along with McAuliffe’s close friend, former president Bill Clinton.
When he was still with the company, McAuliffe said last that GreenTech could build 10,000 cars in 2013 and that the factory would be hundreds of people at their Mississippi factory. Actual production has been much smaller, as has hiring. GreenTech won’t release any production figures but Autoblog reported that 2012 production would be closer to 1% of that figure vehicles, 110 vehicles earmarked for Denmark.
One former employee at the Horn Lake plant told the NBC affiliate in Richmond, Virginia that it was all for show. “They would take everybody and put them out on the line and we would stand over the car with tools in our hand and look like we were doing something to the car, but we wasn’t doing anything.” A company spokesman denied that and described the activities there as “a training build”. A neighbor recently said that the plant is quiet and that nobody he knew who applied there had gotten jobs.
Memphis, Tennessee’s WMC-TV Action News 5 (auto start video) says they’ve found no evidence of significant car production at the Mississippi facility. GreenTech allowed WMC-TV cameras in the factory but wouldn’t let them close to the production line.