There are concerns the company is linked to China and is suing farmers into bankruptcy.
It is being reported that a mysterious investment firm is buying up vast acreage around a Travis Air Force base. The company has also sued farmers in that area, accusing them of conspiring to inflate the value of the property.
The investment firm Flannery Associates has bought around $800 million worth of land around Travis Air Force Base in northern California’s Solano County, which is midway between Sacramento and San Francisco.
Flannery Associates filed a lawsuit in May against a group of landowners, accusing the farmers of conspiring to inflate the value of the property — drawing further scrutiny from policymakers including Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.).
Since 2018, Flannery, registered as an agricultural company, has purchased more than 50,000 acres in Solano County, according to public records and detailed maps obtained by The Hill. The acquired property runs directly up to Travis Air Force Base.
Garamendi has a ‘deep suspicion’ the chunks of land are being bought by a group linked to China.
Garamendi told NewsNation he has spoken with the families who sold their land to Flannery who claim they didn’t want to sell in the first place.
He also said that there was nothing obligating Flannery to pay what it now claims is more than market value for the land.
While he said that although there was no direct evidence Flannery is linked to China there were ‘deep suspicions’.
An attorney representing Flannery has said the group is controlled by US citizens and that 97 percent of its capital comes from American investors – with the remaining investments coming from British and Irish citizens.
Nonetheless, after eight months of investigation the Air Force’s ‘Foreign Investment Risk Review Office’ is yet to identify even one person that is part of the group.
‘The fact they chose to buy all three sides of the Travis Air Force Base even raises immediate questions about national security,’ Garamendi told NewsNation.
‘So, is this Chinese money? We don’t know, but we do know that the Chinese money was being used in North Dakota and we have a very deep suspicion, given the amount of money, given the lack of attention to values, that they simply want to acquire all of this land,’ he added.
Flannery Associates said that the company had spent more than $800 million on the parcels. It began purchasing the land in 2018, but that the acquisitions ramped up this year.
The lawsuit argues that the landowners “want—and have wanted—to sell their properties” and “saw an opportunity to conspire, collude, price fix, and illegally overcharge Flannery.”
It cited one case in 2019, in which the company bought 2,500 acres of land for around $8,400 per acre, but claimed that many of the landowners had “recently” paid between $470 and $2,800 an acre. The lawsuit alleged that they collectively took advantage of a buyer willing to pay more than others for the properties and that Flannery had overpaid $170 million.
“It is a suit designed to force the farmers to lawyer up, spend tens of thousands of dollars on lawyering—and maybe at the end of the day, bankrupt themselves,” Garamendi said on Sunday. “In fact, that has happened to at least one family that I know of, and I’ve heard rumors that another family simply said we can’t afford the lawyers.”
Records show that some of the defendants have since settled with the company out of court.
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