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Okonjo-Wahala - a reptile in human skin

Okonjo-Wahala joins the lizards of Lazard

Nigeria’s former finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has joined Lazard as a “senior adviser”, most likely as payback for services rendered when she was mismanaging the Nigerian economy for the benefit of foreign capital.

Lazard call themselves: “the world’s leading financial advisory and asset management firm, advises on mergers, acquisitions, restructuring, capital structure and strategy”.

They did business in Nigeria including advising the country on the fraudulent deal that saw it hand over $12bn to “Paris Club” creditors in 2006 as a “debt write off”. They also advised the Nigerian government on “privatisation strategies”.

In the UK, Lazard advised the government on the sale of Royal Mail and undervalued it to the tune of £1bn. As they were undervaluing Royal Mail, Lazard were also one of the 16 priority investors who received preferential treatment in the allocation of shares in the business. Weeks after buying undervalued shares in the business Lazard made profits of about £8m from their sale.

In 2010 Lazard advised on the takeover of Cadbury by Kraft. The takeover burdened Kraft with a debt of £7bn to finance the deal. This debt meant job cuts for staff at Cadbury. After the takeover Kraft shut down Cadbury’s Somerdale factory, near Bristol and about 400 people lost their jobs. The British minister that approved the deal, Peter Mandelson, got a job as a senior adviser at Lazard, just like Okonjo-Iweala.

In 1997 Lazard agreed to pay $12m to settle civil securities-fraud and other related charges arising from the firm’s work on some municipal-bond deals in Georgia and Florida.

Lazard has also been involved in the disappearance of most major American steel companies.
They have been involved in the bankruptcy and liquidation of seven major airlines in the US.
Lazard were also involved in the mergers and acquisitions that resulted in Enron and later advised that citadel of corporate fraud.

The firm has been known to pay out more in bonuses than it received in revenue. This should make Okonjo-Iweala feel at home, coming from Nigeria’s finance ministry where she was blowing most of the government revenue on staffing costs.

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