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W.Va. Governor Justice addresses new business woes

CHARLESTON — While avoiding giving specific details due to ongoing court cases, Gov. Jim Justice told reporters Tuesday to wait and see regarding the financial drama going on with his businesses.

“As far as my personal stuff and everything, or my family’s personal stuff, just sit back and wait on the final outcomes,” Justice said Tuesday during his now twice-per-week COVID-19 briefing from the State Capitol Building.

On Monday, West Virginia MetroNews reported that Virginia-based Carter Bank and Trust filed a local court case seeking more than $58 million from defaulted loans made to two Justice-owned companies – the Greenbrier Sporting Club Inc., and the Oakhurst Club LLC. The Carter suit comes more than a month after Justice, first lady Cathy Justice, and multiple companies owned by the Justice family filed a civil case in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia against executives of Carter Bank.

Justice is seeking damages of $421 million from the bank, which the governor alleges engaged in anti-competitive behavior, breach of contract and breach of its fiduciary duties.

Justice’s companies have approximately $368 million of outstanding loans with Carter Bank, all guaranteed by Justice himself, his wife and his son Jay, who manages Justice’s coal and agricultural businesses.

In court documents submitted last week, members of the Carter Bank board called Justice’s lawsuit a “delay tactic” to avoid paying their obligations. Two of the loans, including one for the Greenbrier Resort, would have come due on June 1. The federal lawsuit by Justice was filed the day before.

“(Justice) filed this case purely as a delay tactic against the repayment of loans they owe to Defendant Carter Bank,” wrote Booth Goodwin, an attorney representing Carter Bank. Goodwin is the former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia and challenged Justice in the Democratic primary for governor in 2016.

“Collectively, (Justice) owe(s) Carter Bank hundreds of millions of dollars,” Goodwin continued. “Although Carter Bank has worked repeatedly and cooperatively with (Justice) over the years in restructuring and/or extending various of the loans, early in 2021 Carter Bank advised (Justice) that it would not renew or extend two loans due to mature by their own terms on June 1, 2021.”

The West Virginia Record also reported Monday that Jill Justice, the Governor’s daughter and in charge of operating the Greenbrier Resort, has more than $8 million in tax liens filed against her back in March by the IRS covering tax periods in 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2017. The largest amount — $6.5 million – was when Jill was still in medical school.

“We just love to report the bad,” Justice said in response to questioning about these two stories Tuesday. “At the end of the day, what we need to do is just stand down and see where this thing finally wraps up and know my effort is wholeheartedly behind running this state as your governor and doing the right things … I’ve got kids, I’ve got lawyers, I’ve got a group of people who are handling all of this stuff.”

According to his 2021 financial disclosure report with the West Virginia Ethics Commission, Justice owns 112 companies. Only seven of those companies were placed in blind trusts as of April 30, 2017, shortly after Justice took office. Blind trusts are used by elected officials to place their business holdings in the hands of third parties while they serve to avoid possible conflicts of interest.

Justice turned over the control of his private businesses to Jay, who runs the coal and agricultural businesses, and daughter Jill, who runs the Greenbrier Resort. But Justice has been long accused of still being active in day-to-day management of his companies.

Back in June, The Wall Street Journal reported that Justice – along with Cathy Justice and Jay Justice – guaranteed more than $700 million in loan guarantee taken out for Bluestone Resources Inc. in 2018 to Greensill Capital. Bluestone is the umbrella for Justice’s coal and agricultural interests.

The now-defunct Greensill had sold the Bluestone loans and other loans to Credit Suisse Group’s investment funds. Credit Suisse is working with the Justice-owned company on repayment, but Bluestone filed suit against Greensill in March. Justice said news regarding the Greensill case could come out as early as today.

“Just sit back and watch and wait until … the final outcome,” Justice said. “If truth prevails, you will see a very positive outcome to the Carter Bank saga and absolutely the Greensill situation … it will be a terrific outcome. If bad stuff prevails, it could be very, very difficult on our family.”

(Adams can be contacted at sadams@newsandsentinel.com)

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