After journalist Jamal Khashoggi was apparently killed and dismembered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, President Trump mused to reporters about the importance of the kingdom’s “$450 billion” investment in the United States. Trump wasn’t just placing an exaggerated price tag on a murdered journalist. He was also offering a rare bit of honesty: Billions of dollars in Saudi capital are tied up in the U.S. economy.
Last year, Andrew Ross Sorkin of the New York Times wrote that the “Vision Fund could reasonably be described as a front for Saudi Arabia and perhaps other countries in the Middle East.” (The United Arab Emirates, a close ally of the Saudi crown, is also an investor.)
While the Vision Fund isn’t SoftBank’s only cash pool, it represents a major chunk of investment power for a company with total revenues in the $80 billion range. Other Vision Fund investors include Apple, which famously kicked in $1 billion, Foxconn and Qualcomm. But Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — the country’s de facto ruler, architect of its famine-inducing war in Yemen and the man widely suspected of having ordered Khashoggi’s assassination — recently bragged to Bloomberg, “We are the creators of SoftBank Vision Fund… without the PIF [the kingdom’s Public Investment Fund], there will be no SoftBank Vision Fund.”
The Saudis also have close ties to other major U.S. investment houses, including BlackRock, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America and J.P. Morgan.
“At a deeper level and on more of a kind of existential level, I think we need to ask, ‘What is our financial system for?’” Foroohar says. “Because right now, it’s about facilitating the issuance of debt so that companies can buy back shares and give dividends to the world’s wealthiest people. This does nothing to support Main Street growth. It does not contribute to any kind of increase in productivity, in wages. We have a financial system that is supporting completely the wrong kinds of things. Let’s ask the question, ‘What do we want the financial system to do for our society?’”Saudi Inc: The US’s Controversial Ally Is Buying Up America | The Indypendent