Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Vulture Culture

Tonight I watched a BBC News report about ruthless American financiers known as "vulture funds" who prey on Liberia's debt. The greed is unfuckingbelievable.

Liberia, as you might know, is an impoverished country on the west coast of Africa. Liberia's economy was devastated after a 1980 military coup which was followed by two decades of civil war which left hundreds of thousands of people dead. The little corner of hell is trying to recover.

But there are these things called "vulture funds" which give real vultures a bad name because instead of carrying off the carcasses of dead animals, they unconscionably rape a helpless country. Here's how:
Liberia received debt relief worth $4bn from the international community in 2007 under the heavily indebted poor countries initiative, including $2bn from private-sector bondholders. Insiders to negotiations allege that two US financiers, Eric Hermann and Michael Straus, allowed other creditors to accept a low payout from Liberia, then quietly transferred their holdings to two other firms, which then sued in Britain for the debt in full.
These firms are Hamsah Investments and Wall Capital Ltd, and the world's poorest people are being asked to award these millionaire (billionaire?) investors. We've seen something vaguely similar in the US -- it's called Wall Street's bailout hustle.

Last Friday, British Parliament voted to bar such vulture funds from using the British courts. Now the president of Liberia is asking the US to do the same because it's the right thing to do. But I'm not sure our politicians will accept any sort of ethical argument to clip the vulture's wings.


fabutastic said...

How can the vultures hope to get any money out of countries that are completely broke?

Kristen said...

Don't know really... I guess they're like the credit card companies. They hope you'll never pay them back in full so they can keep adding on more interest.