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BBC America: Palast Hunts the Vultures

Greg Palast 

Special Report for BBC World News America
Broadcast March, 2, 2010

Some vultures have feathers, but some have fancy offices and huge homes. Tonight, BBC investigative reporter Greg Palast follows the trail of one “vulture fund” chief, from a locked office door in New York to mud-brick houses in Africa.

liberia
Reporter Greg Palast outside the office of New York vulture fund. The name plaque has been removed and the staff locked inside.

How strange. When I arrive at the offices of Eric Hermann at hedge fund FH International, just outside New York City, the company’s corporate sign is unbolted from the wall and the suite number removed from the door.

But wait … I hear noises inside the office. Huh? I knock on the locked door and out steps the office building’s security manager.

“Guys, they don’t want to be interviewed. They don’t want to be seen. So we are going to have to ask you to leave the building.”

“And do you know why they took the sign off?”

His reply to our cameras, “I have no clue.”

But we do.

Mr. Hermann is the principle owner of a so-called “vulture fund” which attempted to seize more than $20 million from the war-wounded nation of Liberia.

Mr. Hermann is known in the finance business as a debt “vulture.” He and his associates buy up the debt of the poorest nations on the planet, usually for pennies on the dollar, then sue or use other means to squeeze the nations to pay ten times, even a hundred times, what the vulture fund paid for the debt.

The effect of Hermann’s financial maneuvers earns little applause in Liberia. In that African democracy, diplomat Winston Tubman tells us what he would say to vulture fund operators, “‘Do you know you are causing babies to die all over Liberia?'”

…more