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Gotion is ‘wholly owned’ by a Chinese company, and 2 other takeaways from its foreign-agent filing

Gotion’s FARA declaration contradicts its articles of association

While Gotion is “wholly owned and controlled” by a Chinese company, the Chinese government has no stake in that parent company, one of its law firms said in an April Foreign Agent Registration Act filing. The FARA paperwork, filed with the U.S. Department of Justice by agents working on Gotion's behalf, shows the company has had to address concerns about wetlands on its proposed Michigan manufacturing plant. The filing also reveals that the law firm and Gotion had to consider a possible conflict of interest involving the firm and an economic development organization.

The filing was first reported by The Midwesterner, and it opens a window on the machinations that went into building political support for the $2.4 billion electric vehicle battery plant near Big Rapids.

Read it for yourself: Gotion’s FARA filing

“Gotion Inc. is wholly owned and controlled by Hefei Gotion High-Tech Power Energy Co., Ltd,” reads the answer to question 12 of the declaration form, which asks who owns and controls the foreign organization in question.

The declaration, however, says that the Chinese government has no say in Gotion’s controlling organization. Asked whether Hefei is supervised, owned, directed, controlled, financed or subsidized “by a foreign government, foreign political party, or other foreign principal,” it answered no to all.

Those claims are contradicted by Gotion’s articles of association, last updated in July 2022.  

As Article 9 of the articles reads:

The Company shall set up a Party organization and carry out Party activities in accordance with the Constitution of the Communist Party of China. The Company shall ensure necessary conditions for carrying out Party activities. The secretary of the Party committee shall be the chairman.

Among the party organization’s duties:

Ensure and supervise the implementation of the Party’s guidelines, principles and policies in the Company, and implement major strategic decisions of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council as well as relevant important work arrangements of the Party organization at the higher level...

The question of who owns and controls Gotion has been contentious, showing up in local township board meetings and in Congress.

In May, a member of Michigan's congressional delegation, Rep. Lisa McClain, R-Bruce Township, gave a speech on the House floor called “Gotion: Bought and paid for by the CCP.”

McClain asserted what Gotion’s FARA filing denies: The company is controlled by the Chinese Community Party.

The filing with federal officials also reveals that Gotion may have run into problems with wetlands regulations.

Seven times in January and February, Gotion representatives met with government officials to discuss wetlands. Two of the meetings were teleconferences with Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy Assistant Director Jerrod Sanders. Five others involved multiple staffers from both EGLE and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

On Jan. 30, three EGLE staffers were on the call, and four were from the MEDC. On a phone call about environmental issues, the business development team outnumbered the environmentalists.

The final outcome of those discussions is not known. EGLE did not respond to a request for information.

Local officials who have asked questions about the battery plant's environmental impact say they have received no answers.

Gotion and The Right Place, the economic development firm that lured it to West Michigan, are represented by the same law firm, Warner Norcross and Judd, which also filed the foreign agent form.

After the law firm conducted an internal review, it found no conflict in representing both firms, attorney Matthew D. Johnson explained in a two-page letter that is part of the filing. Gotion vice president Chuck Thelen signed off on the conflict-of-interest waiver, which is partially pictured below.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.