The Naval Officer Who Became Dahua And Hikvision USA's #1 PartnerBy John Honovich and Donald Maye, Published Dec 01, 2022, 11:35am EST
Robert Aarnes, at least on paper, is an All-American success: D1 Football player, Naval Academy graduate, MBA, and President of a multi-billion dollar company. But, as ADI's President, he also quietly became the most important partner of Dahua and Hikvision USA.
In this post, IPVM examines how Aarnes' patriotic positioning contrasts with endorsing and promoting these PRC companies sanctioned for human rights abuses, federally banned for cybersecurity risks, placed on a list of "Chinese military companies" and deemed a threat to national security.
The fantasy movie script is that somehow he is a secret spy or has special allegiance to the China Communist Party. But we found no evidence of that.
The truth is far more banal.
ADI partners consistently describe him as an executive focused on maximizing top-line revenue numbers, one distant both physically and intellectually from the products that Aarnes actually sells.
But how does someone with this background become such a strong ally of such entities?
Six Years of Growth + Compensation Increases
ADI's revenue growth since Aarnes became President six years ago has been a success. ADI is the US' largest security distributor, both in terms of revenue and the impact ADI has through its largest number of USA industry branches.
Aarnes, as ADI's leader, has also been rewarded financially for this performance. Aarnes earned $3.7M in total compensation in 2020 according to an April 2021 Resideo SEC filing, an increase of +230% from 2018:
The 2021 report also cites Aarnes' base salary increase to $575,000 (up from $450,000) to "reflect the significance of Mr. Aarnes’ contributions and leadership"
Mr. Aarnes’ annual salary was further increased to $575,000 effective December 14, 2020 to reflect the significance of Mr. Aarnes’ contributions and leadership within the Company and the ADI business.
Naval Academy Grad and Naval Officer
Aarnes' LinkedIn profile notes he is a former varsity football player and graduate of the United States Naval Academy (a division 1 football program).
Aarnes began his career in the U.S. Navy as a supply officer, where he gained experience in global retail operations and supply chain logistics.
After 5+ years in the Navy, Aarnes earned an MBA and embarked on a business career with increasing roles and responsibilities, ultimately leading to his current role as President of ADI.
Hikvision's ADI Partnership
Hikvision is keenly aware of the importance of ADI to its business and centers its marketing around ADI endorsing them. ADI went as far as to host Hikvision throughout the country this year, driving Hikvision's "#heretosay" marketing.
Expanded Dahua Partnership With Secretly Relabeled Cameras
In this same period, ADI also expanded its partnerships with Dahua, secretly relabeling Dahua cameras as "Capture'. ADI refused to confirm, alleging "this information is proprietary and competitively sensitive" despite IPVM verifying it.
Human Rights Abuses / "Chinese military companies" / Cyber Risks
Notwithstanding the practical risks of the FCC's right to revoke use authorizations and warning of national security risks- the ethical and moral obligations of a business leader should be weighed. Hikvision and Dahua's track record of human rights abuses are extensive (e.g. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
Hikvision and Dahua Still Top ADI Brands
Hikvision and Dahua are currently listed as top brands on ADI's website:
Furthermore, ADI heavily promotes Hikvision and Dahua, as recently as a November 2022 "Flash Sale", which included 10% off promo codes for "featured brands" Dahua and Hikvision in its most recent flash sale at the same time the FCC was finalizing further restrictions on the companies:
For a period of time last year, ADI curtailed its marketing of Dahua and Hikvision but in the past few months, they have returned to full promotion.
Not only does ADI sell and promote Hikvision, but they also refuse to provide any disclaimers about the products being NDAA banned or that these products are from companies that are a national security threat.
"Deep Allegiance Toward Your Country"
In 2019, Aarnes was interviewed by SSN, reflecting on business, his military service, and how it shaped his leadership. Aarnes highlights:
As a member of the mightiest military in the world, you feel an intense obligation toward protecting our way of life and the liberties granted to every U.S. citizen...
In the military, you're driven by a deep allegiance toward your country and the men and women standing their ground next to you protecting it,” Aarnes explained. “That experience gave me a sense of pride and dedication that I still feel today [emphasis added]
Is Aarnes proud of what he has done to promote and endorse Dahua and Hikvision while his government has increased restrictions and actions against them?
We do not know as Aarnes has repeatedly refused to comment, including here.
2 reports cite this report:
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