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Dorsey & Whitney attorney hired to ‘double-check’ Vikes stadium deal

It’s a wild and crazy idea … actually reading and understanding every clause and point of a $975 million deal … and somebody is being paid to do it. Tim Nelson at MPR reports: “The Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority says it is hiring a Dorsey & Whitney attorney to do what Gov. Mark Dayton has asked: to double-check the details on the deal the state is about to sign with the Vikings for a new $1 billion stadium. … Here’s what the authority said in a release this afternoon: ‘The MSFA has retained Peter W. Carter, the co-Chair of the Securities Litigation & Enforcement practice of Dorsey & Whitney to head a group that will conduct the due diligence review. Peter Carter is a senior litigator and has tried RICO cases and performed litigation due diligence for a number of Fortune 250 companies.’ They’re also hiring FTI Consulting, a forensic accounting firm that does ‘accounting and financial reporting, regulatory scrutiny and anti-corruption inquiries.’ ” Who’s betting he doesn’t find one problem anywhere?

At the lefty site Think Progress, Travis Waldron writes: “The question is why it took so long for those deep concerns to register with [Gov. Mark] Dayton, considering the deal with the Vikings never looked like a good one even before Dayton and the legislature approved it by exploiting a legal loophole that allowed them to bypass voters who didn’t want to use public funds to pay for it. Since then, it’s only gotten worse, and Minnesota has already had to find a new source of revenue to cover stadium debts … That should keep the stadium from becoming the absolute boondoggle it looked like as recently as six months ago, but it still seems hard to argue that it will be a good deal for taxpayers. … Are the Wilfs or the Vikings being totally above board with their claims about the stadium and its impact? Of course not. But that has nothing to do with a racketeering and fraud case. It’s just what professional sports owners and stadium proponents do when they’re trying to secure a deal. Dayton might be right to have concerns, but they should have started a year and a half ago, not this weekend.”

Strib business columnist Lee Schafer writes: “The Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority on Tuesday announced that it was taking a deep due diligence dive into the New Jersey suit and other matters related to the Wilfs. Keep in mind that the New Jersey suit involved just one deal among the hundreds, if not thousands, that the Wilf family has completed. It’s grossly unfair to conclude from one rancorous dispute that what happened there is how the Wilfs always work. … It’s interesting to read through accounts of the trial in New Jersey’s Star-Ledger newspaper and see glimpses of the Wilfs’ thinking. One story reported that Zygi Wilf, then on the stand, said he regretted having cut off payments to Halpern in November 2009. … The Wilfs had said that they were concerned about the economy and about increasing vacancies when they ended payments to Halpern. Even so, they took a total of $1.275 million in management fees from the partnership within the previous four months. ‘We were entitled to those fees,’ Zygi Wilf told the court.”

In fairness to the governor, he’s not Scott Walker. Mike Ivey of The Capital Times in Madison writes: “With their respective governors at opposite ends of the political spectrum, the differences between Wisconsin and Minnesota seem stark. And nowhere is the difference more glaring than in state support for the arts. Minnesota has long been a leader in that regard and ranks No. 1 in the nation in spending $6.36 per capita on its state arts agency. Compare that to Wisconsin, which has now fallen to No. 47, funding its Art Board at just 13 cents per capita … That yawning gap was highlighted in a recent post in Volume One, a weekly from the Eau Claire area. Managing editor Tom Giffey writes how many people in western Wisconsin — including himself — routinely travel to the Twin Cities for shows and concerts. … ‘That’s in part because it’s an enormous metro area, but a great deal of it also has to do with a gap in attitudes between the civic leaders of the two states — a philosophical divide wider than the physical one formed by the St. Croix and Mississippi rivers.”

Hmmm. I wonder what prompted this? James McPherson of the AP writes: “Xcel Energy Inc. announced Tuesday that it plans to take over a long proposed 150-megawatt electricity-generating wind farm near the Canadian border in north-central North Dakota. Mark Nisbet, the North Dakota manager for the Minneapolis-based utility, said the company is seeking approval from North Dakota regulators to acquire the permit for the Border Winds project in Rolette County. … [Mark] Nisbet, of Xcel Energy, said the proposed project still includes 66 wind turbines placed over 50 square miles of land north of Rolla in Rolette County, which shares a northern border with Manitoba.”

Filing day has come and gone, and Minneapolis has … 35 candidates running for mayor. Curtis Gilbert of MPR says: “A record 35 candidates have filed … The likely leading candidates include City Council members Don Samuels and Betsy Hodges, former council members Jackie Cherryhomes and Dan Cohen, former Hennepin County commissioner Mark Andrew, Park Board Commissioner Bob Fine, business executive Stephanie Woodruff and attorney Cam Winton. But plenty of others want to become mayor. City election officials say Minneapolis hasn’t seen a mayor’s race this crowded since at least the 1980s.” If this were San Francisco, there’d be at least two porn stars, a disgraced child actor, a San Quentin inmate and a guy who believes he saw Elvis kissing JFK on the Golden Gate.

AG Eric Holder’s call for a re-think of mandatory sentencing, especially on non-violent drug offenses, has Mark Zdechlik at MPR filing a story saying: “Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman agrees with Holder’s position. ‘I think, and I think many prosecutors believe, that we have too many people in prison overall. I think we have too many low-level drug offenders,’ Freeman said. ‘If the whole results of this process of the feds making a change under the leadership of the president and the attorney general results in fewer addicts going to prison, I think we’ll all be better off.’ Freeman said federal prosecutors in Minnesota are already targeting the highest level crimes instead of trying to go after whatever violations they can. … But Mark Haase of the Council on Crime and Justice in Minneapolis says Minnesota’s incarceration rate is misleading especially as it relates to the war on drugs. As the federal government rethinks drugs and prison, Haase says so too should officials in Minnesota.”

In the Bemidji Pioneer, Justin Glawe writes:The nightmare scenario is this: On May 31, 2014, more than 1,000 police officers, sheriff’s deputies and other law enforcement personnel across Minnesota will retire. … Here’s how it breaks down: If you’re a cop currently between the ages of 50 and 55, you can retire before July 1, 2014 and incur only a 1.2 percent annual reduction in benefits for retiring early. After that date, however, the reduction increases, eventually to 5 percent annually by 2019. And the longer employees stay, the greater chance they have of increasing their pay through raises. Since pensions are based on a percentage of an employee’s ‘high five’ — an average of their five highest annual salaries — some may opt to stay on until May 31, 2014, the last day before the increase in reduced benefits for early retirement takes effect. A statewide number of 10,500 cops could drop to 9,500 in a single day, making May 31, 2014 a possible big day for retirement parties.”

Mike McFeely of KFGO radio in Fargo reports: “The case of North Dakota state Sen. Joe Miller (R-Park River) keeps getting more interesting. Miller first made the news when he was charged with drunk-driving (his second alcohol-related traffic violation) after a June 21 arrest. This led to discussion of whether or not Sen. Miller should resign. He refused, saying his constituents told him to not resign. A twist was added a few weeks later, when Sen. Miller revealed that a passenger in his car that night had drug paraphernalia in his possession. It became more interesting today, when KFGO News acquired the complaint against Miller’s passenger that night, a Matthew James Dub. That’s pronounced Doob, by the way, which is simply too perfect. The complaint against Dub (any chance his nickname is ‘Doobie’?) charges him with unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia (a Class A misdemeanor) and unlawful possession of a controlled substance (a Class B misdemeanor).” It’s everything you need for a special session …

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Comments (12)

  1. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 08/14/2013 - 07:26 am.

    Wilfs

    Why didn’t the news media know about this story?

    • Submitted by Pat Borzi on 08/14/2013 - 11:17 am.

      They did, actually

      The Newark Star-Ledger has been on this for awhile. Here are two of their stories, one from 2011, another that ran 16 months ago.

      http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2011/05/epic_trial_involving_nj_develo.html

      http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2012/04/after_20_years_minnesota_vikin.html

      And the Star Tribune wrote about it in 2011, while the Arden Hills site was still in play.

      http://www.startribune.com/sports/vikings/122083334.html

      A better question is why the state picked Dorsey & Whitney, since Walter Mondale, father of Ted, is a senior partner in that firm. How is that not a conflict of interest?

      • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 08/14/2013 - 05:02 pm.

        I’m not sure that would represent a conflict,…

        …although there is plenty of room for suspicion in all directions of officialdom in this atrocious matter.

        You’d have to figure that Walter Mondale would champion any and all causes of Ted, and that Mr. Carter would conspire with them to boot, at risk to his professional reputation. If some kind of rushed and obvious whitewash job comes out of this, what would he have to gain ? What would Dorsey and Whitney have to gain ?

        Besides, the NJ Court case is going to be source material to a significant extent, and its published opinion will set some standards for these local investigations – i.e., only a fool would contradict that Court’s findings. Good God, they’ve been at it for 20+ years !!

        How would you go about finding a law firm where none of the principals had any connection whatsoever to the Wilfs, the Vikings, the Governor, the Mayor, the entire Legislature, the City Council, all the individual members of the MSFA, all the proposed contractors and subcontractors, the Star Tribune, the DFL, the unions, the tribes, the season ticket holders ? I may have left someone out of this list, forgive me if so. I am not comforted by this list of parties, either – it does raise the question, how can you find a truly independent 3rd party in a case like this ?

        I was glad to see FTI Consulting in this project. Are they conflicted ?

        For better or worse, we are left to rely on the professional integrity of Mr. Carter and the people at FTI Consulting. They are the only ones – all the rest of the actors in this comedy are known to be unreliable.

  2. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 08/14/2013 - 08:16 am.

    It’s not the role of government

    to “support the arts.” That’s why we have philanthropists. I have friends who are artists who are good enough to make a living at it. Those who aren’t should consider their work a hobby.

    Walker’s right. Let the market decide who an artist is, not a taxpayer-funded state agency.

    • Submitted by Tom Clark on 08/14/2013 - 10:01 am.

      Public support of the arts

      is for the public’s enjoyment, which is a legitimate thing for government to do. Last weekend at the Irish Fair my wife (who is an artist herself) and I enjoyed a performance of old Irish and Scots lumberjack songs that was in part made possible by support from the State of Minnesota, and there was a large and appreciative audience there who enjoyed it also. Now the duo could support themselves by just playing standard Irish drinking songs at O’Gara’s and elsewhere, but for them to get support so they could feed their families while doing research and learning those old songs was something that does add value to the Minnesota arts scene and helps make Minnesota a better place to live. Here’s a bit of what I’m talking about:

      http://www.prx.org/pieces/73710-brian-miller-minnesota-lumberjack-songs

    • Submitted by Rachel Weisman on 08/14/2013 - 11:42 am.

      The Roll of Government

      I disagree with Dennis. I fully back the government’s roll in supporting the arts. Whereas a philanthropist may direct funding for personal reasons, government supports the public interest.

    • Submitted by E Smith on 08/14/2013 - 12:20 pm.

      Nah. corprate sponsorship of art only ensures bland corprate art

      gets funded. But outside of that… Public Art increases the livability of an area and serves as a unifying aspect for a community. Art has been underfunded and devalued and deserves to exist in all arenas, not just at the whim of some beige private enterprise.
      Seriously, if you think less than $7 a year is not worth it, then perhaps Wisconsin is the place to be. By all accounts the business friendly Governor of WI has driven his state pretty far down on most socio economic measures.

  3. Submitted by Steve Sundberg on 08/14/2013 - 11:19 am.

    State support for the arts

    I would much rather the state support the arts (@ $6 per capita) over supporting stadiums (@ $66 per capita). Seems to be much more value to found, overall, anyway, in the arts.

  4. Submitted by Steve Titterud on 08/14/2013 - 11:25 am.

    The MFSA is doing the right thing.

    They have certainly hired a couple of heavyweights, as is required in a case like this. FTI Consulting represented the trustee in the Madoff scandal, and Mr. Carter has a highly impressive resume. And the charge given them looks right.

    We must give these folks a presumption of dispassion, professional integrity, and good faith – including the MSFA, about whom some of us have had our doubts.

    However, there is one important missing item in the MSFA announcement: who gets the results of their investigations ? How are these results to be reported to the public ?

    * Public reporting.* I realize there are privacy concerns, but the opaque “black box” of the Wilfs’ financing schemes must finally see at least some of the light of day. Also, even though the MSFA is the party contracting these consultants, the interests of the Minnesota taxpayer far outweigh any other interests. It’s our money at stake here !!. We want to see it all reported.

    *No arbitrary time limits.* Both investigations must comprehend the WRITTEN findings of fact, conclusions of law, and orders of the N.J. Court in the Wilfs’ fraud trial. So they must wait on those public documents. If not, we could get reports that conflict with the already adjudicated issues, a furtherance of the mess, rather than clarification. Forget any anticipation of purported deadlines related to moving the stadium development forward as driving these investigations. Forget concerns about the billings of these investigators – we need to be concerned about the integrity of the Vikings and the risk bearing on hundreds of millions in public subsidy.

    If the Wilfs have engaged in material misrepresentations in order to get public money, or to get MORE public money, the entire deal must be voided.

    If the Wilfs have engaged in misrepresentations, then all those public officials who supported this project will be able to turn it around, admit a mistake, and for the protection of the public interest, make it right by voiding the project. If so, all will be forgiven. You don’t get a chance like this every day.

    On the other hand, if the Wilfs turn out to be pure as the driven snow in their financial representations to our public officials, and if there is no potential criminal liability in their actions, then we can take the small comfort that even though the stadium project is terrible public policy, at least we weren’t defrauded by phony financials in the bargain.

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