By Nadia Lopez | Bloomberg
A gaggle of landowners say a Silicon Valley-backed firm attempting to construct a sustainable metropolis northeast of San Francisco used unfair and “strong-armed” techniques to drive farmers to promote their land, together with pitting relations in opposition to one another, court docket paperwork present.
The main points emerged on Friday as a part of a lawsuit the corporate, Flannery Associates LLC, filed in Might in District Courtroom in Sacramento, alleging numerous farmers conspired to inflate the worth of their land by $170 million. The landowners deny the declare and are in search of to dismiss the go well with.
The newest allegations, contained in a report on a convention held by each events in September, present essentially the most full account to this point of the landowners’ accusations in opposition to Flannery, which has backing from former Sequoia Capital Chairman Mike Moritz, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman and enterprise capitalist Marc Andreessen, amongst others.
The defendants say Flannery coerced farmers who didn’t need to promote to surrender their land, compelled property gross sales by evicting farmers and terminating leases, misled landowners and used the pricey expense of litigation to get them to promote, in line with the submitting.
A Flannery spokesperson, in an electronic mail to Bloomberg, mentioned that the corporate has particular proof of price-fixing and that it’s supplied affordable settlements to people and is prepared to settle with the remaining defendants.
In a single occasion, the defendants declare, seven of eight landowners throughout the similar household wished to proceed to farm, whereas one needed to promote. Flannery then allegedly employed a “divide-and-conquer” plan by buying the one-eighth share and suing the opposite seven relations to acquire the remaining shares, in line with the submitting.
To this point, the Delaware-based firm has spent about $800 million to buy not less than 52,000 acres of agricultural land, changing into the world’s largest landowner. It’s in search of $510 million in damages from the landowners, or triple the quantity allegedly inflated by worth fixing.
The corporate’s plan to construct a brand new metropolis known as California Ceaselessly, a walkable, inexperienced group that might create 1000’s of jobs, was revealed in late August by the New York Occasions and different media retailers. The undertaking is led by Jan Sramek, a 36-year-old former Goldman Sachs dealer. It has confronted backlash from some native metropolis leaders and politicians, who’ve expressed considerations over the shortage of transparency within the course of.
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