Man Without Qualities

Wednesday, February 06, 2002


In November, 2001 former Vice President Al Gore joined Metropolitan West Financial, a Los Angeles financial services company. Mr. Gore came on board as Vice Chairman, despite his complete lack of credentials as a financial services executive. Mr. Gore has spent his entire adult life in national politics. So it is reasonable to expect that Metropolitan West was needful of important services from someone having Mr. Gore's particular field of expertise. Why would a financial services company need someone with no financial services experience but lots of national political connections? Metropolitan West's public justifications were not all that convincing.

Could Global Crossing help provide the bridge?

Metropolitan West includes in its ranks many people formerly associated with the bond department at Drexel, the now vanished investment bank at which Gary Winnick once enjoyed a high position. More recently, Mr. Winnick has in recent years been one of the Democratic Party's largest contributors, and reportedly a big friend of Messrs. Clinton and Gore. Metropolitan West has reportedly been a major investor in bonds of the type issued in large quantities by Global Crossing, the now bankrupt Los Angeles based telecommunications company controlled by Mr. Winnick. Further, it would not be surprising for portfolios of the nature Metropolitan West holds itself out as maintaining to include significant quanties of Global Crossing bonds or other securities.

Is it possible that trouble at Global Crossing played a role in Metropolitan West's need for Mr. Gore's political connections?

Recent reports are that Mr. Winnick induced Terry MacAuliffe, now Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, to purchase $100,000 in Global Crossing stock which he later sold for over $15 Million - at a time when he still enjoyed the friendship and advice of both Messrs. Winnick and Gore. Indeed, Messrs. Winnick and MacAuliffe, and other insiders (or those with benefit of insider connections, in the case of Mr. MacAuliffe) collectively sold billions of dollars of Global Crossing stock over the past few years - stock which is now all but worthless. This would all seem to create some rather large incentives to investigate Global Crossing's connections with the Democratic Party - and Metropolitan West's connections with Messrs. Winnick, MacAuliffe and Gore in relation to Global Crossing.

None of this is intended to suggest any necessary impropriety, or any unpleasant "smell" from Mr. Gore's engagement by Metropolitan West. Indeed, it is possible that Metropolitan West was never involved with Global Crossing securities, notwithstanding the former business relationships of their executives and the close geographical proximity of their offices. But the above circumstances do raise questions worth asking. For now, just worth asking.

Perhaps a first step would be to review the creditor claims and equity holder interests filed in the Global Crossing bankruptcy to see if Metropolitan West or any of its funds are named.

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