Russian-Linked Scandal

The website scrub not only created a cover-up, it magnified to what lengths Balch would go to sugar-coat the past.

In February of 2017, while still investigating the Newsome matter, we stumbled on the fact that Balch represented a Huntsville-based, Russian-linked aerospace company, Black Hall Aerospace, Inc. a/k/a AAL USA, Inc. and that Balch had successfully changed Russian sanctions while lobbying for this company on Capitol Hill.

Black Hall Aerospace services Russian-made helicopters and is Russian-linked. As  the online publication Just Helicopters  wrote:

[Black Hall Aerospace’s CEO Paul Daigle] “explained they were handicapped because AAL Group was a foreign-owned company, and that was shutting them out of new contracts. He believed the office had hit its apex. Upon hearing this, the board began speaking to one another in Russian. They then turned to Daigle, ‘We’ve got two Americans in this company. We would like to offer you two the opportunity to buy the U.S. office as a franchise, so that it will be 100 percent American owned.’ Needless to say, Daigle and his partner were stunned. It was uncommon for Eastern Europeans and Russians to cede control.”

Equally as important to note, Balch & Bingham was U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ #2 lifetime donor as U.S. Senator and is closely tied to Trump’s campaign, transition, and Administration.

Incredibly, when then-U.S. Senator Sessions was to endorse Donald J. Trump for President on February 28, 2016, according to media reports the rally “was scheduled to be held at Black Hall Aerospace on Wall Triana Highway at 4:00 p.m. on Sunday. But campaign officials met with the city and Huntsville police… to discuss alternative sites for the large crowd expected.”

The venue was changed at the last moment.

On or about March 2, 2017, after we had exposed their connection to the Russian-linked aerospace company in a public education campaign, Balch scrubbed their website of all references to their successful lobbying in D.C. of changing Russian sanctions for Black Hall Aerospace. The website scrub not only created a cover-up, it magnified to what lengths Balch would go to sugar-coat the past.  In addition, their top lobbyist in Washington, William F. Stiers, changed his resume, removing all references to his success in changing Russian sanctions.

On May 23, Balch appears to have attempted to deceive the public yet once again. Politico.com reported that in a statement Balch & Bingham said they “previously represented an American subcontractor to a large U.S. aerospace company, which had a contract with the U.S. Department of Defense to maintain Russian-made helicopters purchased by the Obama Administration.”

But what raised a red flag were the words “previously represented.” Balch & Bingham is still representing Black Hall Aerospace, Inc. On January 20, 2017, Balch filed a fourth quarter lobbying report from 2016 stating they were terminated on December 31, 2016.  This April 19th, they filed a first quarter lobbying report showing they were representing them as of January 1, 2017.

What changed? In previous years, Balch was representing Maynard Cooper & Gale PC on behalf of AAL USA, Inc. and the last quarter of 2016 they were representing Maynard Cooper & Gale PC on behalf of Black Hall Aerospace, Inc. (formerly AAL USA, Inc.). Now Balch is representing Black Hall Aerospace, Inc. directly.

What is the difference? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Lobbying is lobbying either done directly or as a subcontractor. We are not surprised by this deception. If Balch & Bingham can attempt to deceive the public and Politico.com on the record about their lobbying efforts, as easily as they tried to lie about the CDLU in an open court of law, we cannot fathom what other shenanigans may be occurring behind closed doors.

Some additional matters:

  • Sky-rocketing revenue. The revenue growth at the Russian-linked aerospace company has been enormous and raises serious concerns and questions. According to an online publication, the Russian-linked company, AAL USA, Inc. and/or Black Hall Aerospace, Inc., went from generating $6.5 million in 2014 with 15 employees, to over an estimated $100 million in 2016 with 450 employees.   Likewise, according to a court filing, AAL USA Inc. had less than $1 million in revenue with fewer than 20 employees in 2014 but grew to over 400 employees and $50 million in revenue by 2016.
  • Stealing assets? According to aviationintelligence.org, the Russian-linked company is currently involved in heavy litigation both in Madison County (Huntsville) and Jefferson (Birmingham) County, Alabama. At one point AAL Group was seen as the parent of AAL USA, Inc. which owned Black Hall Aerospace, Inc. Then, AAL Group, based in the UAE,  sold AAL USA Inc. to Oleg Sirbu, the Soviet-born immigrant.   AAL USA, Inc. set up Black Hall Aerospace, Inc. to have the company run out of the United States and run by a U.S. management team. However, now the U.S. management team is accused of stealing the assets of the company.  The U.S. management team “through  fraud  and  breaches  of  their  fiduciary  duties,  and  with  a  stunning  greed  and brazenness, are in the process of destroying all that has been built. [Defendants] using various corporate entities, have begun implementing a fraudulent scheme to steal millions of dollars from AAL USA, to usurp corporate opportunities that are too complex and valuable to be calculated, and to destroy the goodwill and reputation of AAL USA.”  In March, AAL Group sued Black Hall Aerospace for $5 million.
  • Off and the On again. On January 24, 2017, according to Politico.com, the Russian-linked company, Black Hall Aerospace, Inc. (formerly AAL USA, Inc.), terminated their lobbying contract with Balch. However, on February 15, 2017, Black Hall Aerospace, Inc. made up of the alleged corrupt U.S. management team, hired Balch as their lobbyist.
  • We ain’t Russian but only speak Russian. Look at exhibit 9, the non-disclosure, non-compete agreements. Please note a copy was to be provided in English and Russian. Also arbitration is to be held in the UAE in either English or Russian, not Arabic.
  • One mechanic out of 400 employees? One of things Black Hall Aerospace boast is their FAA Part 145 Repair Station. But according to the government website, they have only one mechanic.  [Update on August 8, 2017:  There are now two mechanics listed on the government website.] Comparable companies have a half dozen to a dozen mechanics and numerous repairmen. Maybe the filing is old, but nonetheless, it raises further questions.