Two former government officials who may now run President-elect Joe Biden’s national security team have been partners at a private equity firm now promising investors big profits off government business because of its ties to those officials, according to government documents reviewed by The Daily Poster.

Pine Island Capital Partners lists former Under Secretary of Defense Michele Flournoy and retired General Lloyd Austin as a partner in the firm, and lists former Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken as a partner on a leave of absence. Flournoy and Austin are reportedly among the leading candidates being considered for Secretary of Defense, and Blinken is Biden’s designated nominee for Secretary of State. Pine Island’s chairman is John Thain, the former top executive at Merrill Lynch when the company paid out huge executive bonuses as it began to collapse during the financial crisis.

Flournoy and Blinken’s ties to Pine Island were first reported by The American Prospect.

In Securities and Exchange Commission filings, Pine Island describes one of its investment vehicles as “a newly organized blank check company incorporated in Delaware” that will use its connections to top officials to take advantage of rising government expenditures on the national security agencies that Flournoy and Blinken could oversee. Pine Island’s first filings about the investment vehicle were made in September — the same month Biden suggested that he will not push for significant reductions in Pentagon expenditures, which have reached record levels.

“The reputations and networks of Pine Island Capital Partners’ team, both individually and collectively, will ensure exposure to a significant number of proprietary opportunities,” the company said in one SEC document. “We believe there will be increased demand in the U.S. defense market for advanced electronics, communications, sensor and detection processing and other technologies that enhance the modernization efforts of the Department of Defense’s military readiness. We believe this demand represents strong growth that our management team is uniquely positioned to capitalize on given our combined investment experience and deeply connected partner group of former U.S. defense and government officials.”

The company says Thain and CEO Philip Cooper founded the firm “on the idea that a talented group of accomplished, highly respected, commercially-savvy and long-tenured former government and military officials, when fully aligned and engaged, could enable a first class investment team with better access, better information, better expertise and better management skills than those typically found in private equity firms.”

"This is so explicit that it's astonishing Pine Island even put it on paper,” said David Segal of Demand Progress, a grassroots group pressing Biden to reject Cabinet appointments tied to corporations. “This is not an example of people who happen to work at a big company — these are partners at a firm whose stated business model is to profit from the revolving door and connections gained from time in government."

On November 16, two weeks after Election Day, Pine Island announced an initial public offering of $200 million in its new investment vehicle, called Pine Island Acquisition Corp. In that filing, the company suggests that because of its ties to former government officials, it will have an advantage in investing — and it specifically boasts that its team includes Flournoy.

“Pine Island Capital Partners spends the majority of its time focused in the aerospace, defense and government services sectors, where Pine Island Capital Partners believes it has extensive connections to industry leaders, unusual access to information, and often unique insights into specific companies, programs and overall market dynamics,” the company declares. “The reputations and networks of Pine Island Capital Partners’ team, both individually and collectively, will ensure exposure to a significant number of proprietary opportunities.”

Pine Island also says that it expects to profit off the COVID pandemic in its potential investments in government information technology services.

“We further believe COVID-19 will be a tail wind for the sector,” the company writes. “Critical to any successful government services offering is the skillset, integrity and security clearances of those who execute on its strategy. Our deep bench of connected advisors and former government officials will be the catalyst to recruiting, retaining and developing an elite team of managers and employees, which we believe will enable us to exploit an opportunity in government services.”

The financial relationship between Blinken, Flournoy, Austin and Pine Island could in theory be detailed as part of the Senate confirmation process. However, government ethics regulations allow that information to be concealed if nominees assert that they signed non-disclosure agreements with counterparties.

Photo credit: Mark Makela / Getty

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