Nominee's law firm '1st to establish dedicated Islamic finance group'
Christopher Wray is President Trump’s nominee to be the next director of the FBI, replacing James Comey.
Shariah law is like a mysterious “other” for most Westerners, who may know of its intolerance of other religions and its criminal codes that call for stoning adulterers and the cutting off of limbs for petty thieves.
But few know there is a portion of Shariah that includes a thriving area of finance — deals for real estate and business transactions taking place all over the world with Arab money.
President Donald Trump’s pick to head the FBI, Christopher Wray, surely knows something about this segment of Shariah.
Wray is a litigation partner at King & Spalding, which is one of the leading conduits for Shariah-compliant Islamic deal-making around the world. The firm prides itself in its connections to wealthy Middle Eastern investment groups.
According to its website, King & Spalding is a global leader in Islamic finance and investment. It was one of the first American law firms to aid Islamic investors in accumulating assets in the West.
The King & Spalding website states:
“Our work in the Middle East and our experience with Islamic finance date back to the early 1980s. In 1995, we were the first law firm to establish a dedicated Islamic finance and investment practice group. Our award-winning group has been successful in developing the legal architecture needed by our clients to break new ground in this specialized field. We are the only law firm with recognized experience and the depth to structure and implement sophisticated Shari’ah-compliant investment and financing transactions in the Middle East, Europe and the United States.”
Wray joined King & Spalding in 2005 as a litigation partner in the firm’s Washington, D.C., and Atlanta offices.
Michele Bachmann, the former congresswoman from Minnesota, said Shariah-compliant mortgage lending and finance have become big business as more Muslims migrate to the U.S.
“Islamic finance means imposing Islamic Shariah law on business transactions,” Bachmann said. “Non-Muslims don’t ask for special treatment, nor if they asked would they be likely to get it.”
She said Minnesota actually has state-sponsored Shariah financing for housing in an effort to encourage its large Muslim community to become homeowners. Islamic law forbids the payment of interest on loans so the loans must be structured in a way that allows repayment without making it appear as “interest.”
King & Spalding states on its website that it employs many people skilled in complying with the special nuances of Islamic law, which is based on the Quran and the Sunna.
“Our offices in these jurisdictions are staffed with an integrated group of 30 professionals who are dedicated to Islamic finance and investment, and they are supported by an international law firm with more than 800 lawyers located in 13 offices,” the law firm’s website states.
In 2004, King & Spalding was recognized by Euromoney as “Best Legal Advisors in Islamic Finance,” the first such award presented by any publication or group, “and since then we have remained at the forefront of this specialized practice area.”
Depending on who his clients are, Wray could have potential conflicts of interest.
Philip Haney, a former DHS immigration officer who co-authored the book “See Something Say Nothing,” said he has concerns about Wray’s ties to a law firm that assists Islamic real estate and business deals, but he said he would want to know about Wray’s involvement in this part of the law firm’s business before rushing to judgment.
“One-eighth of Muslim zakat [alms giving] goes to jihad,” Haney said.
Wray did not return WND’s call on Thursday.
Clare Lopez, vice president of research and analysis for the Washington-based Center for Security Policy, said ignorance among government officials about Shariah law is pandemic.
“I think there are a great many senior people, U.S. government officials and others, who have no idea what Shariah-compliant financing even is,” Lopez wrote in an email to WND. “Or, if they think they know, like the Department of the Treasury (which was conducting briefings of banking/finance firms across the country some years ago to tout SCF), they actually have no clue that the Shariah aspect of SCF obligates collection of annual zakat tax and disbursement to recipients engaging in jihad (if they even know what jihad is in the 1st place).”
Mosques collect zakat and Shariah requires them to hold back one-eighth of those collections for jihad.
“So, yes, this is of concern, but primarily because of the failure of professional responsibility to know the enemy and that enemy’s threat doctrine (Shariah)…and failure to engage with experts who would be more than ready to brief them in detail,” Lopez said.
Shariah-compliant finance is a major market segment for investment banks and law firms because of the billions of dollars that are available from oil-rich OPEC countries.
The King & Spalding website outlines the following areas of practice within its Global Islamic Finance department:
Property Funds — Advisors to sponsors of more than 40 Shari’ah-compliant property funds valued at approximately US$10 billion that have invested in properties in the United States, Europe, the Middle East and Asia, including the world’s largest Shari’ah-compliant, open ended property fund and the first Shari’ah-compliant Saudi domiciled property fund.
Private Equity Funds — Advisors to sponsors of private equity funds valued in excess of US$5 billion domiciled in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, the Cayman Islands, Luxembourg, Jersey and other offshore jurisdictions for equity investments in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and the United States.
Parallel Funds — Advisors to sponsors that seek to establish Shari’ah-compliant “sidecar” funds to invest alongside conventional investment funds.
Property Acquisitions — Advisors to funds and investors in the acquisition, financing and development of properties in the United States, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, France, Poland, Germany, Holland, Hungary, Slovenia, Portugal, Sweden, Luxembourg, Russia and the Czech Republic.
Private Equity Acquisitions — Acquisition and finance counsel on substantially all the Shari’ah-compliant leveraged private equity acquisitions (more than 25) that have been undertaken in the United States, and acquisitions made in the United Kingdom, Denmark, France, Germany, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.
Sukuk — Counsel on the first corporate sukuk offering, the first multicurrency sukuk offering and the first open-ended sukuk fund.
Innovative Financing Transactions – Counsel on a number of “first time” Shari’ah-compliant financing structures, including mortgage financing, construction financing, mezzanine financing, corporate acquisition financing and working-capital financing structures.
Project Finance — Advisors to financial institutions and funds on Shari’ah-compliant project financings in the Middle East, including petrochemical, power, desalination, residential housing, hotel and shopping mall projects.
Bankruptcy and Reorganization — Counsel to Islamic financial institutions on the restructuring of Shari’ah-compliant investments in the United States, Europe and the Middle East.
Equities Funds – Counsel on the formation of one of the first Shari’ah-compliant India equities funds.