The President has the Constitutional power to pluck vulture-fund billionaire Paul Singer. Obama hasn’t. Why not?
The “vulture” financier now threatening to devour Argentina can be stopped dead by a simple note to the courts from Barack Obama. But the president, while officially supporting Argentina, has not done this one thing that could save Buenos Aires from default.
Obama could prevent vulture hedge-fund billionaire Paul Singer from collecting a single penny from Argentina by invoking the long-established authority granted presidents by the US constitution’s “Separation of Powers” clause. Under the principle known as “comity”, Obama only need inform US federal judge Thomas Griesa that Singer’s suit interferes with the president’s sole authority to conduct foreign policy. Case dismissed.
Indeed, President George W Bush invoked this power against the very same hedge fund now threatening Argentina. Bush blocked Singer’s seizure of Congo-Brazzaville’s US property, despite the fact that the hedge fund chief is one of the largest, and most influential, contributors to Republican candidates. …
Obama’s devastating hesitation is no surprise. It repeats the president’s capitulation to Singer the last time they went mano a mano. It was 2009. Singer, through a brilliantly complex financial manoeuvre, took control of Delphi Automotive, the sole supplier of most of the auto parts needed by General Motors and Chrysler. Both auto firms were already in bankruptcy.Advertisement
Singer and co-investors demanded the US Treasury pay them billions, including $350m (£200m) in cash immediately, or – as the Singer consortium threatened – “we’ll shut you down”. They would cut off GM’s parts. Literally.
GM and Chrysler, with no more than a couple of days’ worth of parts to hand, would have shut down, permanently;forced into liquidation.
Obama’s negotiator, Treasury deputy Steven Rattner, called the vulture funds’ demand “extortion” – a characterisation of Singer repeated last week by Argentina President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.
But while Fernández declared “I cannot as president submit the country to such extortion,” Obama submitted within days. Ultimately, the US Treasury quietly paid the Singer consortium a cool $12.9bn in cash and subsidies from the US Treasury’s auto bailout fund.
Singer responded to Obama’s largesse by quickly shutting down 25 of Delphi’s 29 US auto parts plants, shifting 25,000 jobs to Asia. Singer’s Elliott Management pocketed $1.29bn of which Singer personally garnered the lion’s share.
In the case of Argentina, Obama certainly has reason to act. The US State Department warned the judge that adopting Singer’s legal theories would imperil sovereign bailout agreements worldwide. Indeed, it is reported that, in 2012, Singer joined fellow billionaire vulture investor Kenneth Dart in shaking down the Greek government for a huge payout during the euro crisis by threatening to create a mass default of banks across Europe. …