[Marxism] Drexel Burnham's "Teflon Guy" promotes counter-revolutionary NGO's
lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Oct 2 18:48:50 MDT 2007
Interview with Eva Golinger: US continues destabilisation push in Venezuela
28 June 2007
In the wake of widely covered opposition protests against the Venezuelan
government’s decision not to renew Radio Caracas Televison’s (RCTV)
broadcasting licence following its countless violations of the law and
its role in the 2002 coup attempt against the democratically elected
government, Green Left Weekly’s Sam King spoke with lawyer and writer
Eva Golinger in Caracas. Golinger is the author of The Chavez Code and
Bush Versus Chavez, which expose US intervention into Venezuela aiming
to overthrow Chavez.
Q: What evidence is there to support the view that the student-led
mobilisations in support of RCTV are part of a broader destabilisation
plan aimed at overthrowing the government of President Hugo Chavez, and
are linked to hostile political forces based in the US?
A: A lot of evidence. One angle is if you look at who are the people
protesting. Everyone has the right to protest, but all of a sudden the
wealthier upper-class and upper middle-class students from primarily
private universities take to the streets to defend an issue that has
been at the forefront of the opposition movement of the traditional
politicians. All of a sudden, here they appear out of nowhere and
they’re carrying the same agenda and the same political discourse, even
though they are trying to disguise it as not being political. Any march
in the street is political. Any claiming or demanding of rights is a
They are repeating a discourse the traditional opposition has been using
here and they’re doing it in a way that is not even fully formed. It’s a
contradiction in itself to say “no, no we’re not being political” and
then crying out for freedom of expression, liberty and things like that
in a country that has more freedom of expression than probably most
countries in the world, and certainly under this government more than
this country has ever had before. Unfortunately they’re being used as
mouthpieces for an opposition that’s been using that discourse over the
past seven years, despite the fact that they’re the ones who ruled the
On top of that, some of the same groups or individuals have participated
since 2004 in training sessions with other US entities such as the
Albert Einstein Institute and the International Centre on Non-Violent
Conflict. These are the entities that were responsible for helping to
promote, fund and advise the “coloured” revolutions in Eastern Europe
[in the] Ukraine, Serbia, Yugoslavia, Georgia. They failed in Belarus
and they began working here in April 2003, first with traditional
opposition leaders and then, as in those movements in Eastern Europe,
they used young people — students.
Letters to the Editor
22 July 2007
Eva Gollinger, in her interview “US continues destabilisation push in
Venezuela” (GLW #716), regrettably made errors in referring to our
organization, the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC).
She says that our organisation was in part “responsible for helping to
promote, fund and advise the ‘coloured’ revolutions in Eastern Europe
[in the] Ukraine, Serbia, Yugoslavia and Georgia. They failed in Belarus.”
The ICNC was not established until 2002, over a year after the events in
Serbia. With respect to Georgia, Ukraine and Belarus, neither the ICNC
nor any of its staff had any contact with people in those countries
involved in those events.
Promoting ‘democracy’ through civil disobedience
25 August 2007
In GLW #718, Jack Duvall, the president of the International Center on
Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC), published a letter in response to a couple
of “errors” Eva Gollinger made in her interview “US continues
destabilisation push in Venezuela” in GLW #716. Duvall denied
accusations that his group had been involved in training activist groups
involved in the recent “color revolutions” in Eastern Europe, and in
opposing Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. However, Duvall does admit in
his letter that in March 2005 the ICNC “gave support to the [Albert]
Einstein Institute for a workshop it conducted on nonviolent action for
Venezuelans, [which was] held in Boston”.
This admission is significant because although Duvall claims the ICNC
“ha[s] not and will not accept any support from any government for any
purpose”, it has always worked closely with the Albert Einstein
Institute [AEI] — a group that does work closely with the US government
and the notorious National Endowment for Democracy (NED). Duvall gives a
false impression that his organisation is totally isolated from US
foreign policy elites.
Without prior knowledge of Duvall’s institutional affiliations, it is
easy to believe that he and the ICNC are supporting progressive
activists all over the world. But unfortunately his work (and that of
his close colleagues) is intimately linked to the NED and much of the
US-based “democracy promoting” establishment.
Inaccurate and unfair attacks on the ICNC
31 August 2007
Michael Barker’s reply (“Promoting ’democracy’ through civil
disobedience”, GLW #722) to a letter-to-the-editor by Jack DuVall (GLW
#718, online edition) contains some serious factual errors and
misleading comments regarding the International Center on Nonviolent
Conflict (ICNC), for which I serve as chair of the board of academic
Green Left Weekly readers may recognise me as the author of Tinderbox:
U.S. Middle East Policy and the Roots of Terrorism (Zed Press, 2003) and
scores of articles for Common Dreams, Alternet, Tom Paine and other
progressive websites, including Foreign Policy in Focus, where I serve
as a board member and Middle East editor. My visibility as an
anti-imperialist scholar has earned me a prominent place on lists of the
most dangerous “anti-American” and “anti-Israel” professors on websites
and in articles of those backing US President George Bush’s global agenda.
This fact alone should raise serious questions regarding Barker’s claim
that ICNC’s program is geared toward supporting US hegemony. If that
were true, why would they have someone like me in such an influential
position? And why would I agree to take such a post for an organisation
if it really supported an imperialistic agenda?
An accurate and fair critique of the International Center on Nonviolent
22 September 2007
Having previously written a critique of the International Center on
Nonviolent Conflict which examined it’s “democratic” associations (GLW
#722), I was amazed to discover that Professor Stephen Zunes presently
serves as the chair of their board of academic advisors. Amazed because
this information was news to me as the ICNC’s academic advisors are not
available on its website, and also that a progressive academic like
Zunes would become associated with the ICNC.
However, I was most shocked by the tone of his opening comment in his
rebuttal to my article that suggested that merely because he has
progressive credentials, this alone “should raise serious questions
regarding” my own analysis (GLW #723,
http://www.greenleft.org.au/2007/723/37520) — implying that progressive
voices should not be critiqued from the left, something I think is very
necessary to strengthen the power of progressive thinking. This article
is my response to Zunes’ misreading of my work.
“First of all”, Zunes asks, “why would [the ICNC] have someone like me
in such an influential position? And why would I agree to take such a
post [in 2006] for an organisation if it really supported an
imperialistic agenda?” Answering the first question is easy for anyone
not associated with the ICNC, as Zunes’ association with them serves to
legitimise its work, helping insulate its activities from critical
commentary. The answer to his second question is not so obvious: maybe
Zunes was unaware of the ICNC’s ties to “democratic” elites, or perhaps
he knew of these connections but still thought that they were no cause
for concern. As I will demonstrate in this article, I believe that the
latter situation applies to Zunes. However, initially I will respond to
some of his criticism of my article.
Strangely, Zunes denies that ICNC works closely with the Albert Einstein
Institution, a blatantly false assertion given that the ICNC’s founding
chair, Peter Ackerman (who is also chair of the neoconservative Freedom
House) was until recently a director of the Albert Einstein Institution.
Despite this clear Ackerman link, Zunes writes that the ICNC “has never
had a single operational meeting with anyone representing” the Albert
Einstein Institution. His point may well be technically true, but his
statement is a little disingenuous to say the least. Likewise, he notes
that “the Albert Einstein Institution has never received any government
funding” — again although this may be technically true, the institute
openly acknowledges the support it has received from the International
Republican Institute and from two Congressionally funded quasi-NGOs, the
National Endowment for Democracy and the US Institute for Peace.
June 8, 1992
THE DREXEL DEBACLE'S 'TEFLON GUY'
Anthony Bianco in New York, with Sana Siwolop in London
HIGHLIGHT: Peter Ackerman, Milken's mysterious right-hand man, will
emerge with about $ 500 million
FROM WALL STREET
1968 Graduates from Colgate University
1971 Earns second master's degree from the Fletcher School at Tufts
1973 Hired by Drexel's president as his assistant
1976 Earns PhD from the Fletcher School
1978 Joins Milken's junk-bond group and moves to Beverly Hills
1981 Established as Milken's special projects aide
1984 Works on his first buyout with Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co.
1988 Plays the critical role in financing KKR's $26 billion buyout of
RJR Nabisco in Milken's absence; receives $165 million paycheck
1989 Moves to London just four months before the eve of Drexel's bankruptcy
1990 Leaves Drexel and is appointed visiting fellow at the International
Institute of Strategic Studies
1991 Confers with top Lithuanian officials in barricaded Parliament
building in Vilnius
1992 Agrees to pay $80 million to settle civil suits
For all practical purposes, the five-year investigation of Drexel
Burnham Lambert Inc. and its principals will end in mid-July with a
hearing in federal court in New York. A surfeit of losers frustrates any
attempt at determining who was hurt worst by the House of Junk's
catastrophic fall. But there's little doubt about who is set to emerge
the big winner: Peter Ackerman.
Ackerman, a specialist in leveraged buyouts, was the highest-paid of all
of Michael R. Milken's minions. In Wall Street history, only Milken ever
made more than the $ 165 million salary Ackerman got in 1988, largely in
recognition of his leadership in arranging financing for the $ 26
billion buyout of RJR Nabisco Inc. But unlike Milken, who is serving a
10-year prison sentence for securities fraud, Ackerman not only has hung
on to his freedom but to the bulk of his fortune, which approximates $
500 million. Indeed, it's likely that Ackerman will walk away a
wealthier man than Milken by some $ 75 million under a sweeping
settlement of Drexel-related civil claims pending before U. S. District
Court Judge Milton Pollack.
PRIVATE MAN. Ackerman, who holds three advanced degrees from the
prestigious Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy, is putting his fortune
to no visible use as he continues an improbable transformation from
junk-bond promoter back to scholar. Ackerman, 45, is a visiting fellow
at the well-regarded International Institute for Strategic Studies in
London, to which he beat a fortuitously timed retreat just before Drexel
collapsed into bankruptcy in February, 1990. His other principal
affiliation is with the Albert Einstein Institution, a think tank in
Cambridge, Mass., devoted to the support of nonviolent political
struggle. Both Ackerman and his wife, the novelist Joanne
Leedom-Ackerman, sit on its board.
Ackerman declined BUSINESS WEEK's interview request. Indeed, he guards
his privacy so zealously that he won't even give his phone number to the
folks at the Institute for Strategic Studies. In pursuit of his new
calling, though, Ackerman occasionally pops up in surprising places. In
April, 1991, he and two American colleagues spent a week conferring with
President Vytautas Z. Landsbergis and other top Lithuanian officials in
the barricaded parliament building in Vilnius. Upon returning to London,
Ackerman briefly abandoned his low profile to write a prescient
International Herald Tribune opinion piece, Nonviolence Would Be
Lithuania's Best Weapon.
To date, anyway, Ackerman has succeeded in checking his Drexel baggage
at the gates of academe. ''I haven't seen any evidence of a negative
attitude out there in scholarly circles because of Peter's connection to
Drexel,'' says Christopher Kruegler, president of Albert Einstein.
However, Kruegler is reserving final judgment until next spring, when a
book he is co-authoring with Ackerman is due out. Entitled Strategic
Non-Violent Conflict, the volume is a refinement of the 1,074-page PhD
thesis that Ackerman completed in 1976.
Ackerman hasn't entirely abandoned his old trade. In early 1990, he was
hired by London-based advertising giant Saatchi & Saatchi Co. to provide
top-level advice on an exhaustive financial recapitalization completed
last spring. Ackerman knew at least one of Saatchi's top executives from
his Drexel days.
Ackerman's smooth transition to a respectable new life galls his former
Drexel co-workers, many of whom resent the man for having made so much
more money than they did. In addition, Ackerman's colleagues hold him
responsible for a good share of the blundering that pushed Drexel into
bankruptcy. What finally killed the firm was the huge inventory of
unsold, nearly worthless junk bonds that it accumulated in 1989 as it
rushed a series of ill-conceived underwritings into the fading junk-bond
market. Other Drexelites say that Ackerman rammed through several of the
very worst of these last-ditch deals, including a Paramount Petroleum
Corp. financing that cost Drexel most of the $ 60 million it put at risk.
NO DEALMAKING. Ackerman was penalized with a big pay cut, and he
voluntarily shipped out to London. Four months later, Drexel was
bankrupt. For Ackerman, the timing of Drexel's Chapter 11 filing was
providential. Last February, Drexel sued hundreds of ex-employees
seeking the return of $ 250 million in bonus payments. Ackerman was not
among them. Because he was paid more than a year before the Chapter 11
filing, not a penny of his $ 165 million bonanza is recoverable under
the bankruptcy code. Grouses a former Drexel banker: ''Peter Ackerman is
a real Teflon guy.''
Unlike some other, lower-ranking Milken aides, Ackerman neither cut a
deal with prosecutors to testify against his boss in exchange for
immunity from prosecution nor was indicted himself. However, the extent
to which Ackerman was investigated in the government's criminal probe is
unclear. The criminal cases against Milken and Drexel consisted mainly
of allegations of illicit dealings with Ivan F. Boesky, the infamous
arbitrageur turned government witness.
Certainly, Ackerman was fortunate that his position did not require him
to deal regularly with Boesky.
By contrast, Ackerman figured prominently in much broader civil charges
brought in 1991 by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the
Resolution Trust Corp. The FDIC and RTC sued Milken, Ackerman, and two
dozen others on behalf of failed S&Ls that traded with Drexel. The suit
alleged that the ''Milken group'' routinely manipulated securities
markets through a Byzantine network of 280 very private partnerships
that reaped huge profits, often at the expense of Drexel's clients.
According to the FDIC's complaint, Ackerman owned an interest in 150 of
the partnerships and ''was involved in making trading and investment
decisions'' for many of them. Milken, Ackerman, and the others named in
the FDIC suit denied any wrongdoing.
GOOD BUY. Many of the most lucrative partnerships bought equity in
Drexel-financed leveraged buyouts -- Ackerman's specialty. For example,
in financing the LBO of Storer Communications Inc. in 1985, the
partnerships allegedly purchased for $ 4 million warrants promised to
junk-bond buyers. In 1988, the FDIC says, the warrants were sold at a
profit of $ 246 million. Milken took $ 40 million and Ackerman got the
next biggest share -- nearly $ 38 million, which, by the way, he
pocketed in addition to that $ 165 million salary.
Like the bulk of the criminal case against Milken, the FDIC's charges
will never be tested at trial. In March, a preliminary settlement was
announced that would end not only the FDIC action but all 170 of the
other civil suits pending against Milken and his ex-colleagues. On July
14, Judge Pollack is scheduled to convene a final hearing in federal
court in New York on this so-called ''global settlement'' of the Drexel
litigation. The judge's approval is expected, since he was instrumental
in crafting the plan in the first place.
As the settlement now stands, the Drexel defendants collectively would
cough up $ 800 million. This sum would be used not only to settle the
current litigation but to cover damage awards from any future lawsuits
against the settling defendants. Basically, Milken and the others opted
to pay now to eliminate the threat that they might have to pay more later.
For Milken, this assurance was purchased at huge expense -- $ 500
million, which comes on top of the $ 600 million he paid to settle
criminal charges. Milken's share of the civil settlement would chop his
net worth by 80%, to $ 125 million, according to a sworn statement
submitted to the court. However, this figure excludes some $ 300 million
held in trust for his wife and children. At Judge Pollack's orders, none
of the contributions made by other defendants have been disclosed.
Knowledgable sources say, however, that Ackerman would make the
second-largest payment, of $ 80 million, or roughly 15% of his net worth.
Why the disparate standards of settlement? Officially anyway,
culpability had nothing to do with it, since no settling defendant had
to admit any wrongdoing. The best explanation is, in a word, politics.
UPROAR. When the terms of settlement were unveiled in March, the FDIC
was blasted for letting Milken off too easily. Buffeted by the backlash,
the FDIC's board voted to reject the settlement crafted by its own
lawyers, only to reverse itself a few days later. Amid the uproar, the
name Ackerman was scarcely heard. ''You could not take away enough money
from Mike to satisfy certain people in Washington,'' one Milken adviser
says. ''But you won't find anyone walking around the Hill saying, 'We've
got to get Peter Ackerman.' They don't even know who the guy is.''
Even to former colleagues, Ackerman remains a mystery. ''With Peter, you
never got too personal,'' says one Drexelite who was friendly with him.
Like Milken, Ackerman never allowed Drexel to publish his photo. And in
his dealings with the press he aspired to invisibility and nearly
attained it. Even in the growing number of books about Drexel, Ackerman
is nothing more than a shadowy bit player.
He has taken self-effacement to an almost literal extreme, adopting and
shedding a series of identities so seemingly contradictory that they
tended to obscure one another. This scholar turned Wall Street dealman
turned scholar was raised in a middle-class Jewish household and even
attended yeshiva before graduating from Far Rockaway High School in
Brooklyn. Yet during his college years at Colgate University and the
Fletcher School he became a devout follower of Christian Science after
meeting Joanne Leedom, whose mother was a Christian Science teacher.
Leedom worked as a reporter for the Christian Science Monitor from 1969
to 1972. Ackerman and Leedom were married around 1971 and have two sons.
'MASS OF CONFLICTS.' Although he specialized -- brilliantly -- in
political science all through college, Ackerman followed his father and
older brother into commerce. In 1973, he joined Drexel as administrative
assistant to its president after ''failing at a quixotic effort to
improve Third World living standards by setting up a pan-African trading
company that trucked cattle from Niger to Lagos,'' according to
Merchants of Debt: KKR and the Mortgaging of American Business by George
Anders. Says one of Ackerman's early Drexel mentors: ''Peter had a
burning desire to prove himself in business but also had a strong,
almost religious belief in doing good works. He was a mass of conflicts
in that respect.''
Ackerman struck his co-workers at Drexel as a miscast academic -- highly
intelligent but theoretical, quirky, and slovenly. Yet he had a subtle
talent for cultivating people able to further his career, notably
Milken, who even then was secretively making a fortune. One of
Ackerman's first bosses was startled to learn from his young assistant
exactly how much Milken was making. This fellow was even more startled
in 1978 when Ackerman accepted Milken's offer to join his junk-bond
group, which promptly decamped to Beverly Hills.
Impressed with Ackerman's unconventional intellect and breadth of
knowledge, Milken made Ackerman his special projects man in the
freewheeling Beverly Hills operation. This meant helping Lowell Milken,
Michael's brother, set up many of the partnerships later investigated by
the FDIC. It also meant custom-crafting financings for Occidental
Petroleum Corp. and other major clients. And when Drexel began financing
LBOs in the early 1980s, Milken turned to Ackerman, who, by all
accounts, was an ingenious, tenacious financier.
Milken demanded fanatical effort, and Ackerman delivered, eventually
establishing himself not only as the linchpin of many of Drexel's most
important client relationships but as a buffer between Milken and the
rest of the firm. ''Peter's role just grew and grew until he became
Michael's alter ago,'' says another member of Milken's inner circle.
''He quoted Mike all the time and started to talk just like him.'' In
terms of appearance, meanwhile, Ackerman was transformed from a
''frumpy, overweight, college-professor type to this sleek, blue-suited,
Turnbull & Asser deal machine.''
In short, Ackerman was absorbed into Milkenism as thoroughly as he had
embraced Christian Science. Indeed, he appears to have been
simultaneously devoted to both. Like Milken, Ackerman spent quite
modestly on creature comforts during his years of immodest income. Even
so, how could Ackerman have reconciled his junk-bond dealings with the
staunch antimaterialism of Christian Science? Only a novelist could
plausibly answer that question. The person who knows Ackerman best,
Joanne Leedom-Ackerman, hasn't written such a novel, though she did
leave a clue about her own means of coping in The Dark Path to the River.
GOOD CAUSES. Published in 1988, Dark Path features a young investment
banker and his ex-journalist wife, Mark and Jenny Rosen. In
counterbalance to Mark's mounting income, Jenny writes checks. ''Mark
called such checks her payments to the gods, her attempt to balance an
imbalanced world. . . . When they went on vacations, she came home and
wrote checks to camp scholarship funds,'' Leedom-Ackerman writes. ''When
they bought new clothes, she contributed to Good Will.''
Of course, in this case, truth is a whole lot richer -- and more
problematic -- than fiction. How does one go about appeasing the gods
for a $ 165 million Drexel paycheck?
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