State regulators have fined a Goldbelt Native corporation board member over a social media post that implied shareholders would be paid if they’d vote a certain way.
The Juneau-based urban Native corporation had asked shareholders last year to vote in favor of establishing a new trust it said would take advantage of a change in the federal tax law. It passed overwhelmingly.
In the weeks leading up to the vote, Board Member Richard Beasley posted a picture of a check for $100 made out to his brother on Facebook. The post said his brother had voted in favor of the resolution and quote: “he got his hundred bucks.”
Everyone that participated in the election received the same incentive designed to boost participation for the Native corporation to reach quorum at its annual meeting.
In an enforcement order dated June 30, the state’s Division of Banking & Securities says: “Shareholders were not required to vote in favor of the proposed settlement trust to be eligible to receive $100.00 from Goldbelt.” It ordered him to pay a $1,000 fine.
Goldbelt shareholder Ray Austin says he’d filed a formal complaint over Beasley’s Facebook post because it was misleading.
He’s a longtime critic of the Native corporation’s management and recently was on the receiving side of sanctions over an unrelated dispute with Beasley.
“I didn’t like that statement when I saw it because I didn’t think it was truthful,” he said in a phone interview. “You didn’t have to vote ‘yes’ to get your hundred dollars.”
The state regulator fined Austin earlier in June over a Facebook post last year that accused Beasley of failing to disclose his paid contract work for Goldbelt. He says he’s requested a hearing to defend himself.
State financial regulators are empowered to broadly police speech related to board elections of Native corporations created by the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. Critics have accused the state regulator of overreach that violates free speech and chills dissent among shareholders in public forums in newspapers and online.
A legal challenge brought by the ACLU of Alaska earlier this year is pending with the Alaska Supreme Court
Messages left with Beasley through social media and Goldbelt’s management weren’t returned.