Activists are calling for the resignation of two members of Puerto Rico’s fiscal management board over the roles they beforehand performed in boosting financial institution earnings on the expense of the island’s monetary well being.

The management board, which has veto energy over main Puerto Rican price range choices, was created by Congress in June because the island foundered beneath $70 billion in public debt. 

A brand new report, titled “Pirates of the Caribbean,” argues that management board members José Ramon Gonzalez and Carlos Garcia must be held accountable for his or her half in plunging the island into debt. The paper, launched Thursday, comes from two progressive coalitions, Hedge Clippers and the Committee for Higher Banks, which each search to fight the political energy of economic establishments.

Earlier than they have been appointed to the management board, Gonzalez and Garcia moved between high positions in Puerto Rico’s Authorities Growth Financial institution (GDB), which points the island’s authorities bonds, and Banco Santander, the Spanish-owned mega-bank that was shopping for and structuring the overwhelming majority of those self same obligations.

The report alleges that Garcia, Gonzalez and different executives at Santander presided over an explosion of profitable underwriting that allowed the financially strapped island to proceed borrowing enormous sums, however on more and more dangerous phrases. The construction of these loans, the report suggests, was extra favorable to Santander and different monetary establishments than to the federal government ― and thus the taxpayers.

Santander participated within the underwriting of $61.2 billion of the island’s $70 billion in debt, based on the evaluation. The report estimates that greater than $1 billion went towards administration charges for Santander and different banks. The island shelled out one other estimated $735 million to the banks to cancel rate of interest swaps ― bets the federal government had made on future rates of interest.

Santander, in addition to former Santander executives who now serve on the fiscal management board, should pay the worth.
Stephen Lerner of the Hedge Clippers coalition

For the loans it underwrote, Santander steadily arrange onerous fee constructions utilizing unique monetary instruments, the report says. For instance, the Santander loans value Puerto Rico $1.5 billion in “capitalized” curiosity funds ― that’s, the island was additionally borrowing to pay the curiosity on its loans. And complex 2009 bond challenge that Santander underwrote netted Puerto Rico $139 million, however required it to pay again $730 million ― 5 instances the worth of the mortgage ― based on the report.

Gonzalez and Garcia held high jobs on the non-public financial institution because it profited off Puerto Rican taxpayers, once they weren’t working the federal government entity that was issuing these bonds.

Gonzalez, who had been president of the GDB from 1986 to 1989, grew to become head of Santander Securities, the arm of the financial institution that underwrote Puerto Rican debt, in 1996. In 2002, he moved as much as CEO of Santander’s Puerto Rican holding firm, a job he held till 2008.

Garcia equally started working in Santander’s Puerto Rican operations within the late 1990s and held numerous management roles. He left the financial institution in 2009 to develop into president of the GDB and returned to Santander in 2011 for one more high govt job.

The revolving door equally spun for others in Puerto Rico’s banking neighborhood. Juan Carlos Batlle, one other Santander govt, took Garcia’s place as chief of the GDB in 2011. On the similar time, Batlle’s brother Fernando left a high publish on the GDB to move up Santander Securities.

As Puerto Rico’s debt rose, the island’s elected officers started pushing the burden of compensation onto the general public. Starting in 2009, then-Gov. Luis Fortuño instituted main austerity measures, shedding tens of hundreds of public workers.

“Santander and different banks purposefully manipulated a authorities determined to keep away from monetary break and shared in over a billion in collected revenue because it pushed Puerto Ricans deeper and deeper into practically unrecoverable poverty,” Stephen Lerner of the Hedge Clippers coalition stated in a press release accompanying the report. “Santander, in addition to former Santander executives who now serve on the fiscal management board, should pay the worth.”

Alvin Baez/Reuters

Governor-elect Ricardo Rossello will formally lead Puerto Rico beginning in January, however the fiscal management board will nonetheless have energy over key choices.

Hedge Clippers and the Committee for Higher Banks, which held a press convention to advertise the report Thursday outdoors Santander Holdings USA headquarters in Boston, are asking the financial institution to refund the underwriting charges it charged Puerto Rico and urging Garcia and Gonzalez to resign from the fiscal management board.

Additionally they need the management board and the Puerto Rican authorities to permit a government-sponsored fee presently auditing the island’s public debt to finish its work with ample funding. Governor-elect Ricardo Rossello, who will assume workplace in January, has not been completely clear about his plans for the fee.

It’s unlikely that Santander, Gonzalez and Garcia will comply with the activists’ calls for.

Neither Garcia nor Gonzalez responded to a request for remark.

Santander Holdings USA declined to deal with the calls for of the report, however provided a normal assertion in regards to the financial institution’s interplay with the Puerto Rican authorities.

“Within the monetary providers trade, it’s not unusual for enterprise leaders to work within the non-public sector after which transfer on to serve in authorities,” stated spokeswoman Ann Davis. 

“It is usually frequent trade observe for monetary establishments, like Santander, to underwrite bonds and challenge monetary devices to help financial progress …,” she added. “The private and non-private sectors have tips in place to forestall conflicts of curiosity and Santander has all the time required strict adherence to those tips to make sure moral enterprise practices.”

However Thursday’s report gives new ammunition to the folks and teams in Puerto Rico and the mainland United States who’ve lengthy argued that banks and different monetary establishments must be held to account for his or her function in facilitating and exacerbating Puerto Rico’s debt disaster.

“This report gives extra proof that the individuals who created the disaster additionally profited from the disaster,” stated professor Charles Venator, a specialist in Puerto Rican politics on the College of Connecticut.

This report gives extra proof that the individuals who created the disaster additionally profited from the disaster.
College of Connecticut professor Charles Venator

The typical Puerto Rican has not equally benefited. The austerity measures adopted to deal with the large debt ― which many consultants imagine Puerto Rico won’t ever be capable of repay ― have sparked a rise in poverty and a lower in public health. Puerto Ricans have flocked to the mainland U.S. to flee deteriorating dwelling situations. The island’s inhabitants dropped almost 7 percent from 2010 to 2015, leaving fewer residents to generate the income wanted to fund the federal government.

Now the fiscal management board is demanding extra austerity, insisting that outgoing Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla scale back his proposed budget.

To make certain, the authors of the brand new report have their very own stake in how the island chooses to distribute the monetary ache. Each Hedge Clippers and the Committee for Higher Banks have amongst their coalition members labor unions representing staff in Puerto Rico, together with the American Federation of Lecturers and the Communications Staff of America.

However the composition of the management board is a matter of concern for all Puerto Ricans, stated Bartlett Naylor, a monetary coverage advocate at Public Citizen.

“If Puerto Ricans are required to undergo damaged guarantees as debt is restructured, the least they need to obtain is oversight from officers fully disconnected from the mess-making, not to mention those that revenue from it,” Naylor stated.

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