Corrupt Microfinance Players attend Conference

The list of confirmed speakers at the forthcoming Capital Markets Conference reads like a summary of the worst offending parties mentioned in my book. Perhaps not surprisingly, I was not invited to the conference, although I would have rather enjoyed firing some questions at these guys. But, given the multitudes of eager microfinance folk attending, perhaps other people may be curious to hear answers to some of these questions. The conference is managed by the generally ethical and effective Women’s World Bank – a decent bunch of women specifically aiming to promote women’s rights. Cool, of the MFIs I know within the WWB network they are generally pretty good (Xac Bank and Ujjivan are fine example), and this is an institution I largely respect. But, their principal sponsor is Citibank, and everyone dances to the tune the piper plays. Conflicts of interest perhaps?

Confirmed Speakers (and the questions I’d love to ask them)

Bob Annibale, Citi Microfinance

“Your institution has been associated with some of the worst MFIs on Earth, from SKS to Compartamos and LAPO. Your testimony to the House of Representatives suggested that you only invested in legal MFIs, and yet LAPO was very demonstrably and repeatedly described as illegal. Do you believe that by sponsoring these sorts of events that people will somehow ignore these indiscretions?”

Chuck Olson, Blue Orchard Finance

“While you were at Deutsche Bank you managed to invest in LAPO, one of the most dis-credited MFIs on the planet. You then moved to Blue Orchard, where you invested in LAPO again, despite other funds having pulled out of LAPO and the MFI finding itself on the front page of the New York Times. Finally Blue Orchard issued a false press release defending your investment in LAPO. How can we take any claims of ethics, responsible investing or transparency seriously when mentioned in the same sentence as Blue Orchard?”

Elizabeth Littlefield, Overseas Private Investment Corporation and Sandra Callison, Habitat for Humanity:

“You managed to select Triple Jump as your fund manager for the OPIC/Habitat fund. Triple Jump has been heavily criticised in a recent book, been subject of an exposé documentary in Holland, and two politicians have now asked nine questions to the Dutch parliament about mis-use of public funds. Triple Jump has failed to comment on these allegations, and OPIC is also public sector funding. Is OPIC concerned about accusations of mis-used public funding by their selected fund manager, and could you briefly explain your due diligence process that led you to select this fund manager? ”

Laura Foose, Social Performance Task Force

“Could you explain why the SPTF and the SMART Campaign have refused to include the rights of children? Even suggesting that MFIs obey the child labour laws in their countries would be a step in the right direction. Academic research is now emerging regarding the adverse effects of microfinance upon child education. Will you address this rather obvious aspect of client protection?”

Lisa Hall, Calvert Foundation

“You institution was heavily criticised in the book, suggesting with firm evidence that you were deceived by Triple Jump regarding your investment in LAPO, and yet you continue pumping money to Triple Jump. Do you honestly believe LAPO was an isolated incident?”

Mark Berryman, Deutsche Bank Global Social Investment Funds

“Does Deutsche Bank secretly regret investing in LAPO?”

Martin Heimes, responsAbility

“Did your due diligence process of LAPO extend to reading any ratings or the front page of the New York Times?”

Martin Holtmann, International Finance Corporation

“There is a rumour going round that you folk were thinking of investing in LAPO? Can you confirm this?”

Mary Ellen Iskenderian, Women’s World Banking

“WWB is a highly reputable institution. Why did you ask such a medley of institutions with highly questionable reputations to speak at your event? Not a single one of these institutions has refuted any of the charges made in the book, and the book has received support from the very highest levels of the sector. Have you read the book? What do you think of the activities described? In particular, do you believe that your main sponsor, Citi Microfinance, told the truth to the House of Representatives?”

Steve Wright, Grameen Foundation

“When your CEO, Alex Counts, defended LAPO’s interest rates (of up to 144%) on the basis that they were cheaper than a moneylender, many people considered this a farcical response. He denied the interest rates charged by LAPO on camera in the Tom Heinemann documentary, although they were subsequently proved by MFTransparency, the authority in the sector on transparent interest rates. Meanwhile Mohammad Yunus has been lecturing the world on the dangers of high interest rates, and would presumably be deeply disturbed by your open support of LAPO. What is GFUSA’s view of extortionate interest rates?”

Tumendemberel Naidorj, XacBank

“Xac Bank is one of the best MFIs on the planet, and a proud member of the WWB network. How does it feel to be in a conference with some of the worst offenders in the sector?”

Anyway, the website also says they will be Tweeting live apparently (#cmc2012), so perhaps they’ll take questions? If anyone is going to this conference, ask one of these questions, or any tough question. This is how we first put ASN-Novib’s investment in LAPO into the public domain. Try to record the question and the answer, send it to me and I’ll post it here. If these guys have earned such a platform to lecture us from, they can face some tough questions from the audience in the meantime.

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3 Responses to Corrupt Microfinance Players attend Conference

  1. Pingback: Emerging & Frontier Markets Today 2012.10.16 - Diverging Markets

  2. BTrute says:

    How about the former head of Opportunity International, VanderWheel, taking assets that were funded by the US taxpayer and selling them at a deep discount to investment funds where he had shadow ownership or subsequent management stakes. Indictment anyone?

  3. Libby says:

    Except this site, where are the Government watchdogs when public funds are used this way? @Trute, I think you have your spelling wrong, but you are going in the right direction. Common knowledge is that after it was all said and done, the guy sued Opportunity based on the quality of the portfolio that his funds had bought (the same portfolio that he had originated and managed and sold while working for Opportunity) AND WON A SETTLEMENT! Clearly some investigation is warranted beginning with

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