By Lucy Komisar
March 12, 2012
What’s good for the goose is apparently not good for the gander. Or what’s bad for the Democrats is airbrushed away for the Republicans.
Mary O’Grady had a column in the Wall Street Journal today, using the occasion of a killing in Haiti to attack the Democrats. Former Haitian Central Bank director Venel Joseph was shot in the mouth, typical mafia messaging, days after his son Patrick was reported to be cooperating with the Justice Department in tying former Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide to a multi-million-dollar bribery by U.S. companies. In trials that have been completed, with convictions, or are ongoing, several Florida companies and their executives are accused of paying off officials of Haiti Teleco, the state phone company, to get cheaper deals on minutes.
So Mary took the occasion to jump on Fusion Telecommunications (New York), which had some suspicious below-market deals with Teleco from 1997 to 2004, and declare, “It is possible that by getting to the bottom of how Haiti Teleco operated during the Aristide years, investigators will finally uncover the details of the arrangement that Fusion Telecommunications—run by former Democratic Party Finance Chairman Marvin Rosen with Joseph P. Kennedy II and numerous influential Democrats on the board—had in Haiti during the Clinton years.”
She also mentioned that Michael Jewett, a former telecom executive at IDT (Newark), “alleged that he had been fired from the company for objecting to a bribery scheme similar to the one that had been described to me by Haitians regarding Fusion. He had filed a wrongful dismissal case that alleged that he was told to put payments in an offshore account for the benefit of Mr. Aristide. Federal Communications Commission records proved that Teleco had indeed given IDT a 66% discount to the official rate, but Mr. Jewett was never able to prove that Mr. Aristide was the beneficiary of the offshore account. IDT denied wrongdoing and eventually settled with him out of court.”
Guess what Mary forgot to mention. She forgot to write, “IDT – then run by Republican James Courter (the former New Jersey Congressman) with board members (all fellow Republicans) Rudy Boschwitz, former senator from Minnesota; James S. Gilmore III, former Virginia governor; Thomas Slade Gorton III, former senator from Washington State; Jack Kemp, former congressman from New York and 1996 vice presidential nominee; and Jeane Kirkpatrick, former U.S. ambassador to the UN under President Ronald Reagan….”
She also forgot to mention that the case against IDT is much stronger than a listing of suspiciously low rates, that IDT CEO Howard Jonas acknowledged for the first time, in an interview with me for an article in Barron’s September 20, 2010, that Aristide had met with an IDT executive in the course of the man’s visit to Haiti to discuss the contract. “We thought that was highly unusual,” Jonas told me. “In most cases, you’re just talking to the head of the telecom. It was unusual that the president himself would be involved with it.” I could imagine IDT’s lawyers pulling their hair out when they read that! (Jonas was IDT board chairman during the Teleco deal and became CEO when Courter left.)
Jewett’s suit, which had dragged on since 2004, suddenly settled a few months later in January 2011. Jonas and his executive would have been called as witnesses had the case gone to trial. (As Barron’s is owned by the Journal’s Rupert Murdoch, the papers are distributed throughout the News Corp’s Sixth Avenue offices for free, so I assume Mary would have seen that.)
Finally, as to investigators uncovering details, the Fusion annual report for 2011 (the 10K) mentions nothing about such an investigation in its legal section. However, IDT has for years, including in its latest quarterly filing (the 10Q), stated about the Teleco matter: “The Company continues to cooperate with these investigations, which the SEC and DOJ have confirmed are still ongoing.”
Prediction, Mary: the Justice Department is going after IDT and Courter, not Fusion and Rosen. Oh, and I bet they interrogate Jonas and the executive who dealt with Aristide as well as former Congressman Courter. Once they crack — if they haven’t already — the paper trial of the Turks and Caicos shell company account that Jewett called Aristide’s bank account for IDT bribes, they may have solid evidence against Aristide as well.
Text of O’Grady article.
List of companies being investigated for FCPA violations. IDT is on the list; Fusion is not.