August 6, 2004
Dick Cheney is too modest to list his past accomplishments as CEO of Halliburton on the White House Website, so I decided to give him a few pointers on writing a resume to submit to future employers when he leaves the White House in January 2005.
I would definitely keep the focus on three areas of expertise: (1) Setting up fraudulent tax havens to avoid paying US taxes; (2) Doing business with terrorist countries; and (3) Stonewalling criminal investigations without going to prison.
(1) How To Set Up Fraudulent Corporate Tax Havens
As CEO of Halliburton, Cheney did rack up a number of accomplishments. He increased Halliburton's offshore tax haven subsidiaries nearly 5-fold. The company currently has 143 subsidiaries, but only 36 are incorporated in the US. The other 107 are located in other countries. According to CitizenWorks.org, Halliburton is 8th on the Fortune 500 list of companies with the most offshore tax havens.
For tax purposes, a subsidiary is defined as a controlled foreign corporation if US shareholders own more than 50% of its voting stock, or more than 50% of the value of all its outstanding stock (directly, indirectly, or constructively) on any day of the year.
Here's how they work. Under the US tax code, American corporations must pay taxes on income earned in foreign countries. But if a company incorporates a subsidiary under the laws of a foreign nation, the subsidiary is not considered a US resident, it is considered a foreign citizen. This allows the US parent company to avoid paying US taxes on the subsidiary's income as long as the income is retained and reinvested outside the US.
So by filing a few incorporation papers and paying a small fee to a foreign government Halliburton can turn a subsidiary into a foreign corporation that can avoid paying any US income tax. Its that easy.
Overall, the tax saving generated by Halliburton's tax havens, and the correlative tax loss to American taxpayers, is enormous. For example, in 2002, Halliburton only paid $15 million of its $80 million tax bill (or 19%) to the US government. The remaining 81% went to foreign governments.
Bob McIntyre, the director of Citizens for Tax Justice, talks about tax havens engaging in complex deals to shelter their profits, "The more these companies can bounce things around offshore, the more profit that can be kept offshore and tax free," McIntyre says. "They shouldn't get away with it, but it is really hard to police."
This may be true, but I think Bob would agree that with Cheney in the VP office, Halliburton gets away with a lot more than other corporations do.
(2) How To Do Business With Terrorists
Cheney and Halliburton were a match made in heaven. Together they found ways to make money off of just about every known terrorist country on God's green earth, regardless of the strict US laws against it.
While Cheney was CEO, American companies were barred from doing business with Iran. So the company set up an address in the Cayman Islands. The TV news program 60 Minutes did an investigation of a subsidiary called Halliburton Products and Services, and discovered that the company had no office or employees. The only sign of the phantom company was a forwarding address to Houston, Texas.
The 60 Minutes reporter traveled to the Cayman Islands, went to the address listed for Halliburton Products, and found a building owned by a local bank and a bank employee who told him that when mail arrived for Halliburton Products, it was forwarded directly to Houston, Texas.
The company's luck might be running out because this particular subsidiary has recently come under new scrutiny. A grand jury is said to be examining whether it is truly independent and whether Halliburton violated federal sanctions by operating in Iran.
The LA Times explains that US companies are allowed to operate in Iran, but under strict guidelines requiring that their subsidiaries have a foreign registry, and no US employees, and that they act independently of the parent company. So in a nutshell, it boils down to whether Halliburton Products met those criteria.
The Treasury Department website details US sanctions that bar almost all trade with Iran, and says that, "No US person may approve or facilitate the entry into or performance of transactions or contracts with Iran by a foreign subsidiary of a US firm that the US person is precluded from performing directly. Similarly, no US person may facilitate such transactions by unaffiliated foreign persons," it says.
According to media reports, investigators are examining Halliburton documents dating back to 1997 - 1998 that relate to a Dubai based subsidiary that received several tender offers from Kala Ltd, which is a subsidiary of the National Iranian Oil Company. Investigators want to know whether the deals were completed and whether they were in violation of US sanctions against Iran.
So, is Halliburton worried? Apparently not. It has known since 2001, that the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) was conducting an investigation to determine whether the company violated the ban, and it still went right on doing business with Iran. In fact in 2003, Halliburton's subsidiary was used to sell $63 million worth of oil products to Iran.
Something must have turned up because the OFAC recently referred the matter over to the Justice Department for investigation, which in turn prompted the Justice Department to issue a subpoena that calls on Halliburton to provide documents relating to its business relationships with Iran. It will be interesting to see what information Halliburton turns over (if anything).
But this trading with the enemy is nothing new. While Cheney was CEO, Halliburton even used subsidiaries to make tens of millions of dollars off Iraq. According to UN records and industry executives quoted in the Washington Post, Halliburton held stakes in 2 firms that sold over $73 million in oil production equipment and spare parts to Iraq.
And yet, listen to what that pathological liar said when he running for VP and was interviewed on ABC's "This Week" on July 30 2000. "I had a firm policy that we wouldn't do anything in Iraq, even arrangements that were supposedly legal. We've not done any business in Iraq since U.N. sanction were imposed...," Cheney claimed. He really needs to get some help for that compulsive lying disorder. Its obviously out of control.
Halliburton has been doing business with known terrorists for years. Back in 1995, it was fined $3.8 million for doing business with Libya. The company sold tools to Libya that critics said could be used to trigger nuclear bombs. So be sure to keep in mind whenever Bush starts bragging about dismantling Libya's WMD program, that it was Halliburton that helped create it in the first place.
(3) How To Stonewall Investigations and Stay Out Of Prison
Halliburton is the all-time pro at fraudulent scams and war profiteering. And its top level executives are pros at stonewalling investigations and finding ways to stay out of prison.
Under Cheney's watch, the company was caught over-billing the government time and time again. In 1997, the GAO caught Halliburton charging $85.98 for a sheet of plywood that only cost $14.06. A 2000 follow-up investigation caught it charging tax payers for cleaning the exact same office space 4 times a day. So what happened to Halliburton as a result of these lengthily and expensive investigations? Nothing until 2002. Then it was fined $2 million for defrauding the government and that's it.
And nobody better think for one minute that the company has turned over a new leaf just because it was forced to pay a few million in fines. That is never going to happen. By now, I'm convinced that Halliburton estimates the cost of potential fines and lists them under "war profiteering expenses" when it submits the bid. Of course, that's if its even required to submit bid.
For example, as recently as January 2004, Halliburton employees were caught accepting $6.3 million in kickbacks from a Kuwaiti subcontractor. The company paid back the $6.3 million, said it fired the employees, and went right on as if nothing had ever happened.
In fact, the administration not only ignored the kickbacks, it gave Halliburton another $1.2 billion contract. Republican Congressman Tom Davis, Chairman of the House Committee on Government Reform, even said, "It's incomprehensible that the [Bush] Administration could give Halliburton another billion-dollar contract without fully investigating such serious criminal wrongdoing." Well incomprehensible or not, it did.
Here's another good example of Halliburton officials stonewalling and avoiding prison. In May of 2003, Halliburton was forced to admit to the SEC that it had paid $2.4 million in bribes to officials of Nigeria's Federal Inland Revenue Service in 2001 and 2002 "to obtain favorable tax treatment."
Halliburton put all the blame on a couple of lowly employees and claimed that none of its senior officers were involved in the bribe. But as the Houston Chronicle pointed out, "left unanswered is how a 'low-level employee' could channel that much money from the company to the pockets of a corrupt official."
So what are they asking us to believe? That 2 employees took a brown paper bag to an ATM machine and made withdrawals of $2.4 million? Oh Please!
We are talking here about ripping off hundreds of millions of dollars from the US government (aka the taxpayers), and yet no matter how bad it gets, there are never any arrests.
In fact, the SEC might even end up letting the $2.4 million bribery case slide, because it has far bigger fish to fry. As of July 2004, the French, British, Nigerian and US governments are all investigating allegations that Halliburton and three other companies paid $180 million in bribes to Nigerian officials in exchange for a $6 billion contract to build a natural gas plant in Nigeria, while Cheney was CEO.
French police started the initial investigation into the matter way back in October, 2002. In June 2003, the chief prosecutor on the case believed that there was enough evidence to appoint anti-corruption judge, Renaud van Ruymbeke, to expand the investigation.
This second case is far more complicated because it involves an international consortium between Halliburton and three other companies from France, Italy, and Japan. Together, they formed the joint venture TSKJ, a company registered in Medeira, Portugal.
TSKJ was then awarded the $6 billion contract. But here's where it gets tricky for Halliburton because the alleged bribery payments were made through TSKJ, and Halliburton owns 25% of the company.
According to the Washington Post, "at the heart of the investigation is the question of whether those payments amounted to illegal commissions, or bribes, to Nigerian public officials." The payments were made during Cheney's tenure, and according to the Boson Globe, "If such payments were made and Cheney approved them, he could be guilty of violating the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act."
Ex-Halliburton consultant, Attorney Jeffrey Tesler, says that Cheney knew all about the bribes. Tesler testified under oath in May, 2004 that he made payments to Jack Stanley, while Stanley was president of Halliburton subsidiary KBR, and Tesler specifically said that Cheney approved the payments.
His testimony is backed up by banking records that show that at least $5 million in payments were wired to Stanley through a secret bank account in Zurich. Tesler also testified that he paid $350,000 to another Halliburton executive, William Chaudran, through a secret bank account on the isle of Jersey.
On June 18, 2004, Halliburton announced that it was cutting its ties with Jack Stanley. But there's good news for Stanley in France. Judge Ruymbeke is said to be offering him a deal if he implicates Cheney, and sources within the French legal system say that there is more than enough evidence to indict Cheney on charges of bribery, money laundering and misuse of corporate assets.
It's Definitely Time To Lawyer Up
Halliburton knows it's in big trouble with this case. Cheney might have pull in the US but not France. In February 2004, Halliburton hired Attorney James Doty, from (where else but) the Baker-Botts law firm.
Doty just happens to be the same attorney that Bush hired when he bought the Texas Rangers, and he was also general counsel to the SEC when it investigated Bush for insider trading while he was a director on the board of Harken Energy. What a tight-knit little group. I guess birds of a feather definitely do flock together.
Something I heard recently suddenly makes sense. Halliburton apparently purchased some kind of insurance policy to cover legal expenses that Cheney might incur as a direct result of problems arising from his employment with Halliburton. Now it becomes clear.
Well lets hope that's true and that they get Cheney a good attorney too, because the way things stand right now, he may very well be looking at criminal indictments for the some of the illegal activities he engaged in while CEO of Halliburton. With such a long history of corrupt business deals hanging over his head, its no wonder that he has heart trouble.
I bet Cheney longs for the good old days of Campaign 2000, when his only legal problems consisted of trying to hide drunk driving arrests, and worrying about whether, if elected Vice President, he could get into Canada since he was a two-time convicted criminal.