Before I get to the story of his attack on African kids, let me tell you how Singer made his first billion, his first killing (and I don't mean that metaphorically): via an attack on victims of asbestos poisoning.
Background: The executives of a few asbestos companies, WR Grace, USG and Owens-Corning, knew that their asbestos factories were killing their workers. When caught and sued, the companies filed for bankruptcy, agreeing to pay almost all their earnings to those dying and injured by their asbestos.
But Singer had a better idea. These companies, as you can imagine, were worth next to nothing; and Singer bought Owens-Corning for a song.
If he could cut the amount paid to the victims, Singer could boost Corning's value big time. So, a PR
campaign was begun attacking the dying workers, saying they were all faking it.
One attacker was a guy named George W. Bush.
In January 2005, President Dubya held a televised meeting to promote an "expert" who pronounced that over half a million workers suing Singer's industry were liars. If workers couldn't breathe, he said to the grinning President, it wasn't the fault of asbestos.
The "expert" was not a doctor, but notably, his "research" was partly funded by ...Paul Singer. And so was Bush. Since the death of Enron's Ken Lay, Singer and his vulture flock at Elliott International had become the top contributors to the Republican National Committee. It's hard to measure his largesse exactly because some of that help comes in through the side door. For example, Singer put money behind the "Swift Boat" smear on Bush's opponent, John Kerry.
The legal, political and PR
attacks on the dying workers chiseled away the compensation expected to be paid by the asbestos companies, boosting their net worth. Singer then flipped Corning, selling it for a neat billion-dollar profit.
It's legal, it's brilliant, it's sick, it's Singer.
Asbestos workers have lawyers and the law, weak as it may be, so Singer only made a billion. Singer hit on a way of squeezing billions from those even more vulnerable.
Singer's new modus operandi is to find some forgotten tiny debt owed by a very poor nation (Peru and Congo were on his menu). He waits for the US and European taxpayers to forgive the poor nations' debts; then waits at bit longer for offers of food aid, medicine and investment loans. Then Singer pounces: legally grabbing at every resource and all the money going to the desperate country. Trade stops, funds freeze and an entire economy is effectively held hostage.
Singer then demands aid-giving nations pay monstrous ransoms to let trade resume. At BBC TV's Newsnight, we learned that Singer demanded $400 million dollars from the Congo for a debt he picked up for less than $10 million. If he doesn't get his 4,000% profit, he can effectively starve the nation. I don't mean that figuratively—I mean starve as in no food. In Congo-Brazzaville last year, one-fourth of all deaths of children under five were caused by malnutrition.
For BBC, I tried to ask Vulture Singer the diplomat's question about the baby killing, but I couldn't get past George Gershwin. (In the New York office tower housing the billionaires' roost, a George Gershwin look-alike in top hat and tails plays show tunes on a grand piano for Singer's grand entrance.)
One of my favorite Singer scores was his successful scheme to legally loot the Treasury of Peru. The nation's US lawyer told me, aghast, how Singer let Peru's rogue President, Alberto Fujimori, flee his nation to avoid murder charges. Singer had seized Fujimori's get-away plane. The Vulture named his price: One of Fujimori's last acts as president before he fled was to order his dirt-poor nation to pay Singer $58 million.