Monday, December 4, 2023

Arrested Former Diplomat is PEU

The Guardian

A former American diplomat who served as US ambassador to Bolivia has been arrested in a long-running FBI counterintelligence investigation, accused of secretly serving as an agent of Cuba’s government.

Manuel Rocha, 73, was arrested in Miami on Friday on a criminal complaint and more details about the case are expected to be made public at a court appearance on Monday

Rocha is on the board of Clover Leaf Capital Corp, which began as an SPAC under the sponsorship of Yntegra Group, an investment group specialized in private equity and high yield transactions.

Private equity underwriters (PEU) brought us "policy making billionaires" and non-lobbyist lobbying, where those billionaires received preferred access to elected officials.  Did Mr. Rocha get ahead of himself in advocating for Cuba?  Did he assume he could just meet with elected officials like Carlyle's David Rubenstein and Blackstone's Stephen Schwarzman?

Clover Leaf Capital's initial SEC filing in April 2021 included the following:

Ambassador Manuel Rocha, will be one of our Independent Directors upon the effective date of this offering. Before moving to Miami in 2002, he spent well over two decades as a US diplomat. His last post was as US Ambassador to Bolivia from July 2000 to August 2002. His Foreign Service career included assignments in the Dominican Republic, Italy, Honduras, Argentina and Cuba. Importantly, he was also Director of Inter-American Affairs in the National Security Council at the White House. Making the transition to the private sector, he worked for two law firms, established his own business development company bringing business opportunities from China to the Western Hemisphere, worked for a private equity firm based in Argentina, and headed Corporate Affairs for Arcos Dorados, which owns most of the McDonald’s restaurants in Latin America. All of this before serving as President of BARRICK Gold’s subsidiary in the Dominican Republic from September 2012 to April 2018, which represented the largest foreign direct investment in the country exceeding 5 billion dollars. Since May 2018, he has served as the SVP for Global Corporate Affairs for XCOAL, one of the largest exporters of US origin coals for use in integrated steel mills, cement plants, and power plants throughout the world. He graduated cum laude from Yale University, earned a master’s degree in Public Administration from Harvard University and a Master’s in International Relations from Georgetown University.

We are an “emerging growth company” under applicable federal securities laws and will be subject to reduced public company reporting requirements.

Clover Leaf signed a promissory note for nearly $1.4 million with sponsor Yntegra.  Did the same person sign both sides of that deal?  That would hardly be arm's length.  PEUs are not known for being above board.

In 2022 Rocha rejoined a Miami law firm, Foley and Lardner LLP.  Their announcement stated:

Ambassador Rocha also brings extensive insight into the hospitality and leisure, private equity and family office, and lobbying and strategic communications industries across Latin America, Europe, and Asia.

The firm's website no longer includes Ambassador Rocha in its people list.  Odd, given how highly the Foley and Lardner thought of Rocha just months ago:

"The addition of Ambassador Rocha to the Miami office comes at a most opportune time. As Foley continues to expand its presence in the Florida market with the addition of top lateral talent, his geopolitical renown will bolster our reputation for unparalleled client service across the state and into Latin America," said Mary Leslie Smith, managing partner of Foley's Miami office.

"Ambassador Rocha's decades-long track record and high-profile experience handling international relations will be a tremendous resource for our clients – both in Miami and across the globe," said Edward Burbach, chair of Foley's Government Solutions Practice. "His multinational company experience will bolster Foley's existing relationships in Latin America and continue to reinforce and expand the firm's international business offerings."

Surely Mr. Rocha's law firm kept him on the clean side of the law.  Was it his PEU dealings or something else that got him in trouble?  Time and the Justice Department may reveal the answer.