As one of its first moves in its state takeover of financially strapped Atlantic City, Chris Christie’s administration has awarded a lucrative government contract to the financial services firm that employs the Republican governor’s brother, Todd Christie. The deal followed an even bigger contract given to the firm by Christie officials only weeks after the governor’s brother began working there.
In January, Chris Christie signed an executive order installing an emergency management team to develop “a plan to place the finances of Atlantic City in stable condition on a long-term basis.” Two months later, Reuters obtained documents showing that Christie administration officials signed a contract with Ernst & Young, which hired Todd Christie as a New Jersey-based director in March 2013. Todd Christie is listed as working on the firm’s “business development” in campaign finance records.
The Christie administration contract will pay Ernst and Young more than $250,000 to provide financial analysis of Atlantic City. As the casino town faces a $101 million deficit and hotel closures, the deal cemented by Christie’s Department of Law also will allow Ernst & Young to bill taxpayers $455 per hour for other services, according to Reuters. The Christie administration gave the contract to Todd Christie’s firm at a time when New Jersey’s executive branch ethics code says that public officials may not use their positions “to secure a job, contract, governmental approval or special benefit for yourself, a friend or family member.”
“I hope the governor’s advocacy for the state takeover of Atlantic City was not simply to repay a favor to his brother, Todd Christie, for all of the support Todd has given him over the years,” said Assemblyman John Wisniewski, the Democrat who co-chairs the legislature’s investigative committee. “It is fair to ask questions any time you have the executive branch taking actions that at least on the surface appear to uniquely benefit somebody very close to the governor.”
In a statement provided by Christie spokesman Kevin Roberts, the New Jersey attorney general’s office said Ernst & Young was selected “based on its expertise in this area,” and noted that the firm had been involved in Detroit’s bankruptcy proceedings, which it says are “functions similar to the services they are providing in Atlantic City.”
Roberts did not answer whether the governor or his staff spoke with Todd Christie about conducting financial analysis of Atlantic City, and referred any questions about Todd Christie’s role at Ernst & Young to the company.
John La Place, a spokesman for Ernst and Young, said in a statement that, as a matter of company policy, "Todd Christie has no involvement in any work with the government of New Jersey." La Place said the Ernst and Young employees working on the contract are "highly qualified" and "have performed similar work for several other municipalities, most notably the City of Detroit." Todd Christie did not respond to International Business Times’ request for comment.
The Christie administration’s Atlantic City-related contract to Todd Christie’s firm follows Todd Christie delivering more than $50,000 to the Republican Governors Association, which backed his brother’s election campaigns. The governor’s brother also delivered a maximum $3,800 contribution to his brother’s reelection campaign after he started at Ernst & Young.
This is not the first time Todd Christie’s business has intersected with the government business his brother oversees.
Only weeks after Todd Christie started at Ernst & Young, Christie administration officials awarded the firm separate contracts worth more than $550,000 for auditing services in connection with the state’s expenditures on Hurricane Sandy recovery. Ernst & Young has said Todd Christie was not involved in the deal, and noted that Ernst & Young is a large company with many employees.
Todd Christie also was part of a group of investors who purchased and sold properties near public transit facilities that his brother’s appointees redeveloped, according to the Bergen Record. At an event touting the redevelopment, the governor joked that his father was the “lobbyist in the Christie family for this project.”
Todd Christie’s business dealings also came up during the 2012 presidential campaign.
According to the book "Double Down: Game Change 2012," Todd Christie was seen as one of a host of “potential land mines” in Chris Christie’s record when Mitt Romney’s aides were vetting potential vice presidential nominees. One item in particular was a 2008 civil fraud settlement Todd Christie had reached with the Securities and Exchange Commission in which he admitted to making “hundreds of trades in which customers had been systematically overcharged” as an executive at Spear, Leeds & Kellogg.
The criminal investigation of that firm saw 15 traders indicted, but not Todd Christie. Two years after that, then-U.S. Attorney Chris Christie gave a no-bid contract to the federal prosecutor in New York who led the SEC’s investigation into Todd Christie.