Private Facebook post leads to $1,000 fine for Goldbelt board member

The cover design of Goldbelt Inc.’s 2016 annual report was inspired by the late Clarissa Rizal, a Goldbelt shareholder and weaver. (Jeremy Hsieh/KTOO)

State regulators have fined a Goldbelt Native corporation board member over a social media post that implied shareholders would be paid if they voted a certain way.

The Juneau-based urban Native corporation had asked shareholders last year to vote in favor of establishing a new trust it said would take advantage of a change in the federal tax law. It passed overwhelmingly.

In the weeks leading up to the vote, board member Richard Beasley posted a picture of a check for $100 made out to his brother on Facebook. The post said his brother had voted in favor of the resolution and, “he got his hundred bucks.”

Everyone that participated in the election received the same incentive designed to boost participation for the Native corporation to reach quorum at its annual meeting.

State financial regulators accused Richard Beasley of “materially misrepresenting that shareholders were required to vote in favor of the proposed settlement trust to receive $100.00 from Goldbelt.” (Screenshot: Jacob Resneck/CoastAlaska)

In an enforcement order dated June 30, the state’s Division of Banking & Securities said: “Shareholders were not required to vote in favor of the proposed settlement trust to be eligible to receive $100.00 from Goldbelt.” It ordered Beasley to pay a $1,000 fine.

Goldbelt shareholder Ray Austin said he’d filed a formal complaint over Beasley’s Facebook post because it was misleading.

He’s a longtime critic of the Native corporation’s management and recently was on the receiving side of sanctions over an unrelated dispute with Beasley.

“I didn’t like that statement when I saw it because I didn’t think it was truthful,” he said in a phone interview. “You didn’t have to vote ‘yes’ to get your hundred dollars.”

The state regulator fined Austin earlier in June over a Facebook post last year that accused Beasley of failing to disclose his paid contract work for Goldbelt. He said he’s requested a hearing to defend himself.

State financial regulators are empowered to broadly police speech related to board elections of Native corporations created by the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. Critics have accused the state regulator of overreach that violates free speech and chills dissent among shareholders in public forums in newspapers and online.

A legal challenge brought by the ACLU of Alaska earlier this year is pending with the Alaska Supreme Court.

Messages left with Beasley through social media and Goldbelt’s management weren’t returned.