Monday, July 07, 2008

Vulture Culture

‘Vulture fund’ is a name given to a company that seeks to make profit by buying up debt in default on the secondary market for pennies on the dollar, then trying to recover up to ten times the purchase price, often by suing impoverished countries in U.S. or European courts.

Some vulture funds target failing companies, but Africa Action, Jubilee USA Network and TransAfrica Forum are focused on those that target the sovereign debts of impoverished countries.

These vulture fund companies tend to be quite secretive, and many of them are based in tax havens such as the British Virgin Islands. Some are owned by large, often U.S.-based, financial institutions such as hedge funds. In other cases, there is limited or no information on who owns them. Often subsidiary companies are set up by these larger hedge funds simply to pursue one debt, then shut down after winning those assets.

As of late 2007, 11 of 24 Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPCs) surveyed by the International Monetary Fund were facing litigation from 46 different commercial creditors. Of these, 25 creditors had received court judgments against HIPCs amounting to about $1 billion on original claims of $427 million.

Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) are particularly vulnerable to vulture funds who purchase the defaulted debts of HIPC countries at much reduced prices and litigate against the debtor for inflated sums, making huge profits on the backs of the world’s poorest citizens.

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