Facebook vs Kauai
Zuckerberg sues native Hawaiians.
Facebook’s mission statement: “Facebook’s mission is to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.”
Company founder and billionaire Mark Zuckerberg just filed multiple lawsuits to remove over a dozen native Hawaiian families from his 700-acre “family sanctuary” on Kauai. Apparently, he’s more of a “do as I say not as I do” kind of guy.
Two years ago, the Zuck, paid approximately $100 million for the beachfront property on the Garden Isle. On the land lived a number of “kamaaina” families, who by Hawaiian law, have the right to live on the tech tycoon’s oversized retreat.
Directly translated, “kamaʻāina” means “child of the land,” and the idea of these native families having rights to their ancestral home dates back to the Kuleana Act of 1850. In a coconut shell, the act dealt with the issue of private land ownership in the Hawaiian kingdom. Typically, land was passed down to heirs over the generations. In some cases today, those descendants have retained property without any official documentation. The legal parlance is often referred to “quiet title and partition”, and it is relatively common in the Islands. Zuck’s lawsuits intend to force these families to sell off their lands at a public auction (with the highest bidder presumably being him). Really, how’s going to outbid the CEO of Facebook who Forbes estimates is worth $44.6 billion?
“Partition by sale, in particular, is highly problematic for the Native Hawaiian community because it severs a family’s connection to ancestral land,” reads a Center for Excellence in Native Hawaiian Law that was cited by the Honolulu Star Advertiser, which initially broke the story.
On December 30, 2016, Zuckerberg’s shadow companies—Pilaa International LLC, Northshore Kalo LLC and High Flyer LLC — filed eight “quiet title” lawsuits in state Circuit Court on Kauai. Some of the people he’s suing are alive, including native Hawaiian women named Oma, Eliza Kauhaahaa and Annie I. He’s also trying to razz the dead, with suits against “long-deceased defendants” Kelekahi, Palaha, Laka, Lote, Luliana, Kapahu and Kaluuloa. It’s believed in some cases there are no rightful living heirs, but that remains to be seen as this process plays out.
There is also a case against 300 descendants from a Portuguese sugar cane plantation worker named Manuel Rapozo. The complaint states he bought four parcels (about two acres) in 1894. Rapozo’s great-grandson, Carlos Andrade, a retired University of Hawaii professor of Hawaiian studies, has joined Zuckerberg as a co-plaintiff. He lived on the kuleana land from 1977 until recently, but continues to maintain a house and garden there.
“I feel that each succeeding generation will become owners of smaller and smaller interests, each having less and less percentage of the lands and less and less capability to make sure everyone gets their fair share of (Rapozo’s) investment in the future of his family,” wrote Andrade in a letter to relatives explaining his view of the matter.
He estimates that a large majority of his relatives were unaware of the land and lawsuits. Mind you, we’re talking about fractions of property rights that could be one-half of one percent or smaller. Putting a valuation on the shares has been difficult. Based on property records, Zuckerberg paid $8,607 for 1/100 a share and $350 for 1/3,276 of a share.
Genealogical evidence will play a role in determining who’s entitled to what. Then it’s up to the judge how to proceed in the cases against one of the richest men in the world and a small group of native Hawaiians. In regards to the eight quiet title cases on Kauai, should the property go to auction, if you’ve got the money to go toe to toe with Zuck, and step up.
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