Thursday, February 15, 2007


The business world has all sorts of shady folk. I trust it has even more respectable and responsible folk but this is not an example of the good that hopefully resides in even the worst people's hearts. Vulture Funds (named after the scavengers that circle the weak) are organizations that purchase debts in "distressed environments". Distressed environments may mean companies nearing bankruptcy or countries with large public debts. A small percentage of the paper value of a debt may be paid to take it over. The vulture fund then is responsible for trying to collect the entire debt (to both get their investment back and to make a profit). It's one thing when it is a company about to go bankrupt but something entirely different when it is a developing country in crisis. I feel like, in whichever case, the most vulnerable are the losers. In a business context this could be employees who would be less likely to receive compensation because the vulture fund is able to claim first. In the case of countries it is much more insidious. Vulture funds have sued countries and won payment of the debts owed. Zambia and its people are the most recent losers. In the face of widespread debt forgiveness, vulture funds have come in and won the right to be paid a portion of their outstanding debt. The money would otherwise be spent on badly-needed infrastructure, education and health services. How do we expect to eradicate debt and speed development when we have a financial system that facilitates taking resources from those who desperately need it? Grrrr...

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