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Rick Berg's Financial Disclosure Appears To Be Incomplete PDF Print E-mail
Written by Chet   

[UPDATED X 2]

Candidates for office file a form called a "Statement of Interests" with the North Dakota Secretary of State.  The Statement of Interests is supposed to list all interests a candidate holds in any business that is not his/her primary source of income.  (Read the relevant law by clicking here.)

Rick Berg (R-Fargo) is running for the United States House of Representatives.  He filed a "Statement of Interests" form with North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger.  Here's Rick Berg's "Statement of Interests," filed with the Secretary of State's office on April 8, 2010:  

Berg Statement of Interests

 

You can see from this form that Berg spent some time putting together the list of companies in which he has an interest.  I haven't counted them, but maybe there are thirty or so businesses.

Down at the bottom of the form, just above where Berg signed it under oath in front of a Notary Public, it says this:

I, the undersigned, declare this Statement of Interests has been examined by me and to the best of my knowledge is a true, and complete statement of my financial interests.  I understand any intentional violation of the law requiring the filing of this statement shall result in my being deprived of my appointment or assuming the duties of the elective office.

(See above)

So it would appear Berg was very deliberate in putting together his statement of interests.

But what's strange about this is that Berg didn't list a company called "Northern Plains Capital Corporation."  What's "Northern Plains Capital Corporation?" you ask?

Well... here's part of a couple pages from North Plains Capital's website, and a prospectus the company has been circulating, trying to raise capital to start a new domestic (North Dakota-based) life insurance company:

NPCapital

See that?  Rick Berg is on the Board of Directors for Northern Plains Capital Corporation.  And, according to the prospectus, Berg owns 46,000 shares of NPCC.

Doesn't that seem like the sort of thing you'd want to disclose on a "Statement of Interests" form that purports to include a complete listing of your business interests?

The law says that if he intentionally fails to comply with the disclosure requirements, Berg could potentially be charged with a class B misdemeanor, and he could be excluded from the ballot.  That's what section 16.1-09-07 of the North Dakota Century Code says.

I've been trying to figure out reasons why he wouldn't have disclosed this.  Here's what I've come up with. 

Either:

(1)  He's sold his stock in the company since the prospectus was put together in December of 2009, and he quit the Board of Directors, but the webmaster has just failed to remove his picture, etc., from Northern Plains Capital's website.

(2)  He's still a shareholder and director, but he "forgot" about his directorship and 46,000 shares of stock; or

(3)  There's some reason Rick Berg wanted to keep his interest in this company a secret, and his failure to disclose was intentional.

I don't know which it is, but you'd think the authorites would investigate the matter, once they found out about it.

Wouldn't they?

[UPDATE #1:  Looks like Berg still owns the stock and serves on the board.  Here's an excerpt from an Associated Press story that's going around:

Berg spokesman Tom Nelson says the omission was a mistake. Nelson says there were a few other companies that were left off the form, and they will be added later.

State Democratic director Joe Aronson has asked Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem to investigate.

Williston Herald

 

Interesting, no?  Berg "forgot" he serves on the board of this company and that he has interests in a bunch of other companies.  So maybe it's more like 45 or 50 companies Berg has his fingers in.  Sounds like a real "man of the people."

Remember when John McCain forgot how many houses he had?  Rick Berg owns so many companies, he just can't be expected to keep track of them all.  He sounds exactly like the kind of "regular guy" the people should want to send to Congress, doesn't he?

I've got another question for you:  According to the prospectus (on page 1), "The shares have not been registered under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended ("the Securities Act"), in reliance on an exemption from registration for the offer and sale of securities on a wholly intrastate basis."  I'm not a securities law expert, but it seems as though Berg's (and former North Dakota Insurance Commissioner Jim Poolman's) company is trying to avoid having to comply with federal regulations by limiting ownership of Northern Plains stock to North Dakota residents only.  If you look at the list of original shareholders, you'll notice that the first owner is a company called "Great Plains Financial Corporation."  If you go to the North Dakota Secretary of State's website and do a business search for that company, you'll find that there is no "Great Plains Financial Corporation" registered to do business in North Dakota.  If you Google the company, what you'll eventually figure out is that Great Plains is a South Dakota corporation based in Pierre, South Dakota.  

So... if Great Plains -- with its 350,000 shares -- is a major shareholder of Northern Plains and it's NOT a North Dakota company, how can Northern Plains avoid federal (SEC Form N-6?) filing requirements by claiming all its shareholders are North Dakota residents?  Does some rule -- perhaps Rule 506, as Northern Plains claimed in a February 2009 filing with the S.E.C. -- exempt Northern Plains from federal filing requirements?  And I ask not because I know the answer, but because I don't know the answer.  Maybe this is all completely kosher.  Maybe corporations aren't just "people" (see the Citizens United case);  Maybe they're also residents of any state they want to be residents in, including states where they aren't registered to do business.  Maybe corporations are "super citizens" and have more rights than real, living, breathing, human citizens.  Can someone who knows something about this stuff take a shot at explaining?]

[Update #2:  For an explanation of why this should cause Rick Berg's name to be excluded from the June Primary ballots, click here.]


Comments (8)add comment

doug d riley said:

remember when
berg tried have independent insurance companies take over for wsi,i wonder why?????
 
April 20, 2010
Votes: +0

What the Heck said:

Trib story
Apparently the exec director of the Dems filed a complaint and has asked Stenejhem to investigate. Berg's camp says it was a mistake and they omitted other interests which will be included in an amended report.

I'm very curious as to what other interests were inadvertently omitted. As to Stenejhem investigating...well, no further comment on that. Did anyone check out the website for Northern Capital? Berg is a director, Poolman, and someone with the last name of Stenejhem (not Wayne).

Talk about a vague website. In order to find out more about the company's products, you must contact them. How do you inquire about a product you're not aware even exists? Looks like an early stage company however, they have employees, so they must be getting funds from somewhere.
 
April 20, 2010
Votes: +0

Adam said:

Steve is Wayne's brother...
Which is an interesting conflict of interest. We are aware of Joe's affidavit. I have a copy of it. It will be interesting to see if Stenehjem does the right thing and recuses himself from the investigation(if he even does one...).

We'll see.
 
April 20, 2010
Votes: -1

What the Heck said:

It's a Small World
All these related parties. Is this the silver stocking club I've heard about? As far as Stenehjem recusing himself, it would be more likely that he appoints a fellow party member to conduct an 'impartial' investigation. Like the WSI whistleblower investigations (wink wink).

Berg's explanation that he simply lost track of all his business ventures will be accepted on face value. I am curious what will pop up on the list and whether there is a common thread or just random acts of omission. Perhaps he has another staff member to blame it on.
 
April 21, 2010
Votes: +1

Deb' said:

cousin
I think that Steve is Wayne's cousin - from Watford City? Right?

 
April 21, 2010
Votes: +1

Michael J. Gaarder said:

...
How many of these companies that Rick Berg has his hands in applied for "Safety Grants" from WSI? Could this be his way of soaking out money from a state agency?

Take him out of the running, and take him to the cleaners!!
 
April 22, 2010
Votes: +1

Miss Colleen said:

WHO IS RONALD BERG? "RONNIE"???
funny that Ronnie Berg is the president of Plains Capital Bank here in Dallas! HAHAHA
 
May 12, 2010
Votes: +0

old.frt said:

...
"Fish smell from the head down."
 
August 24, 2011
Votes: +0

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