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As Obama's Bank Fees Under-Target Citigroup and AIG, Geithner Questioned

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, January 14 -- The night before President Barack Obama was scheduled to unveil a scheme of fees on the three or four dozen largest financial firms, the Administration held a then embargoed conference call with the press.

  Several questions centered around why the auto manufacturers which took TARP funds would not also be fined. Others wondered, if the fee regime yielded more than what the government and taxpayers lost through TARP before it expired in ten years, would the money still be collected and how would it be used?

  The Administration representative, who the press was told could only be called a "senior administration official," replied that once the basis of calculating the fee had been decided on, car companies didn't fit it.

  Before all questions were answered, the Administration signed off, noting that Obama would be making his announcement at 11:20 the next day. Among the questions not taken or answered was this, from Inner City Press: why assess all of the financial firms under the program at the same rate, fifteen basis points?

  Citigroup, for example, received much more TARP and other payouts than other covered banks. And as South Bronx based Fair Finance Watch and others showed at the time, the government tried to help Citigroup scoop up Wachovia, until another less subpsized offer won the day. Why benefit Citigroup again by treating it like other, less subprime heavy banks? The same holds for AIG.

Geither and AIG, Citigroup not shown

  The "senior Administration official" went out of his way to portray the program as a matter of principle for not only Obama but also "his" Treasury Secretary, Tim Geithner.

  To some, the timing is meant to blunt renewed bipartisan criticism of Geithner, this time only only for not paying his taxes to the IRS -- which would be collecting the fees from the financial firms -- but for having told AIG not to disclose the preferential basis of the bailouts it was receiving, while he was at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

  But it was hard to note that his seeming favorite, AIG, and the bank most benefited by his Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Citigroup, are benefited by the structure of this proposed Financial Crisis Responsibility Fee program.

  In fact, some say it has an aspect of a Tim Geithner bail out.

  And that's... a question that should be asked, and answered. Watch this site.

* * *

Amid Reports of War Crimes, IMF Gives More Funds to Sri Lankan Government and Spins on Human Rights

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 18 -- The International Monetary Fund's seemingly dismissive attitude toward human rights, including labor rights and protections against ethnic cleansing and even torture, has been on display this month. Managing Director Dominique Strauss Kahn defended the IMF's disbursement of funds to the government of Sri Lanka, without any conditions or safeguards, after detailed reports of presumptive war crimes.

  When Inner City Press asked IMF spokesperson Caroline Atkinson if, in light of Mr. Strauss Kahn's logic, the IMF ever considers human rights in disbursing funds or not, she laughed and called the question's "premise... a bit misleading." Video here from Minute 9:07.

  From the IMF's sanitized transcript:

Inner City Press: Does the Managing Director’s November the 5th statement ‘regardless of one’s opinion of the human rights situation’ mean that the IMF never considers human rights?”

MS. ATKINSON: That’s another question where the premise is a bit misleading. The point that the Managing Director was making in his response to a letter from Human Rights Watch was—and as you know, the text of that letter talks quite directly about the Managing Director’s own feelings about the importance of human rights. And the point of that quote was that he was saying whatever you think about what rights and wrongs of what’s happening in Sri Lanka now, what is true is that an economic collapse would make lives worse for everybody. And, of course, usually the most vulnerable are most hurt by any economic collapse. So it was in that context he was explaining the reasoning behind the Fund’s economic support for Sri Lanka. Thank you all very much and have a good Thanksgiving.

  In fact, even the Europe Commission in considering extending or suspending its GSP Plus favorable tariff treatment to Sri Lanka, has taken into account consideration of human rights and war crimes. By contrast, the IMF has argued against any duty to consider human rights. Even Strauss Kahn's letter refers only to "humanitarian" issues, and uses this as an argument in favor of releasing more funds.

IMF's Strauss Kahn -- funds flow "regardless... of human rights"

  Since March, Inner City Press has asked IMF spokespeople what safeguards if any would be attached to the loan. (Despite Inner City Press' demonstrated interest since then, the IMF did not tell it about its conference calls on disbursements to Sri Lanka, neither in July nor this month).

On July 16, the IMF's Caroline Atkinson said that the views of the international community will be taken into account. Four days later her boss Mr. Strauss Kahn issued a press release with no mention of safeguards. Now a letter, and a laugh. We will continue to follow this issue.

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

* * *

These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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