Vulture Fund Feminism

A newly-reported contract between Madeleine Albright’s consulting firm and a major Wall Street hedge fund has only been a footnote in presidential campaign coverage, but it speaks volumes about how elites in both parties find common ground above the fray of partisan bickering and gridlock that tends to dominate the news cycle.

A consulting firm founded and led by Madeleine Albright, who recently made a colorful feminist appeal to women voters on behalf of Hillary Clinton, just landed a new contract with billionaire Paul Singer’s hedge fund, Elliott Management. Singer is a major backer of Marco Rubio.

On Tuesday Politico Influence reported that Elliott Management hired the former secretary of state’s firm, Albright Stonebridge, to advise on the fund’s ongoing rift with Samsung. Politico noted that Elliott had previously hired Albright Stonebridge to support its efforts to wring massive profits out of Argentina.

Albright Stonebridge has an active revolving door with its namesake’s former employer, the State Department, as well as the Department of Commerce. Former Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez co-chairs the firm with Albright. Albright Stonebridge added their latest State Department alum as recently as January, when they brought on Wendy Sherman, former undersecretary for political affairs, to be a senior counselor at the firm.

According to the New York Post, Singer had hired Albright Stonebridge in 2014 in the hopes that her State Department credentials would lend gravitas in their negotiations with the Argentine government over payouts on their debt holdings. But the relationship was terminated after President Kirchner accused the former secretary of state of meddling in the country’s affairs, saying that the firm had threatened to fund her political opponents.

From the article:

Singer’s Elliott Management retained the 77-year old diplomat on a “short-term assignment” that was terminated because “the Argentines don’t appear to be interested” in what she is saying, a source close to the billionaire investor’s firm said

Funds such as Singer’s are notable for their cutthroat pursuit of massive payouts on debt holdings in economically distressed regions at the expense of massive cuts to education, healthcare, and social services, earning them the nickname “vulture funds.” This practice is currently most visible in Puerto Rico, where vulture funds similar to Singer’s – including some of the funds that held Argentine debt – are aggressively opposing debt restructuring and instead advocating shuttering schools and gutting pension funds, even as Puerto Rico’s poverty rate is 45% and climbing.

Singer’s record is particularly grotesque: he’s won massive payouts at the expense of world’s most vulnerable populations – from asbestos victims to the people of Peru and the Republic of Congo – employing sophisticated and unrelenting media, legal, and lobbying strategies to get his way.

The World Bank has described vulture funds such as Elliott Management as “a threat to debt relief efforts.”

Singer has been called a “passionate defender of the 1% and a rising Republican power broker” who shows “little sympathy for the plight of the 99%.”

Albright – who once said that 500,000 dead Iraqi children were worth sanctions against the country – seems to share Singer’s perspective.

The contract is a timely reminder of how Washington really works, and that Albright is a dubious arbiter of feminist values.