Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Obama's Ambassador to UK & Citigroup's Israeli Business Connections

As the Center for Responsive Politics’ web site recently noted, the Democratic Obama Administration’s Ambassador to the UK-Designate Louis Susman--a recently retired Vice Chairman of Citigroup Corporate and Investment Banking and Citigroup International Advisory Board member—“has reportedly earned the nickname the `vacuum cleaner’ and `big bundler’ for his prowess as a bundler of campaign cash.”

According to Public Citizen, for example, Susman bundled at least $100,000 for Obama’s presidential campaign and at least $300,000 for Obama’s inauguration—with $50,000 of this money coming from the recently bailed-out Citigroup executive’s personal funds. In addition, the former Citigroup executive and his wife “contributed at least $581,400 to federal candidates, committees and parties, with 99 percent of the sum going to Democrats, including at least $12,800 to Obama,” according to the Center for Responsive Politics’ web site.

While the Obama White House press release of May 27, 2009, which announced Susman’s nomination to be its Ambassador to the UK, indicated that he used to be the Citigroup Corporate and Investment Banking Vice Chairman, was a member of the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team’s board of directors from 1975 to 1989, worked for Salomon Brothers and “was appointed by President Ronald Reagan to the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy,” it failed to mention some other interesting recent business affiliations of Louis “The Vacuum Cleaner” Susman.

According to a November 15, 2000 Business Wire article, Susman has also been a member of the corporate boards of D & K Healthcare Resources, Inc., the U.S. Can Corporation, Drury Inns and Knightsbridge Solutions LLC in recent years. The same article also revealed that at Salomon Brothers, Susman “provided leadership for major merger transactions, representing Dayton Hudson in the purchase of Marshall Field’s, General Dynamics in the sale of Cessna Corporation, and LG Electronics in the purchase of Zenith Electronics Corporation.”

U.S. Ambassador to the UK-Designate Susman apparently has a lot more experience working as a Citigroup investment banking and collecting campaign contributions for some of the U.S. politicians who recently authorized the use of public funds to bail out Citigroup’s executives than diplomatic experience. But the Citigroup firm he worked for apparently has had a lot of experience doing business in Israel in recent years, despite international calls for an economic boycott of Israel until it finally ends its violation of Palestinian national self-determination rights.

As a November 1, 1999 article in the Jerusalem Post observed:

“Citibank, a subsidiary of Citigroup, has been operating in Israel since February 1996, when it became the first major international bank to open a representative office. Citibank now is expected to be the first major international bank to open a full-service branch in Israel. Another Citigroup subsidiary, the Salomon Smith Barney investment bank, has been active in Israel for many years, serving Israeli clients out of New York, London and a representative office in Tel Aviv.

“Today's announcement was made by Citigroup's chairman and co-chief executive officer, Sanford I. Weill, at a meeting with the Governor of the Bank of Israel, Jacob Frenkel. Also attending were William R. Rhodes, Vice Chairman of Citigroup and Citibank; Ron Braverman, Country Corporate Officer for Citigroup in Israel; and Dr. Itzhak Tal, Supervisor of Banks - Bank of Israel.

“Mr. Weill said: `Citibank's decision to open a full-service banking business in Israel reflects Israel's continuing macroeconomic progress and our confidence in the future growth of trade and commercial flows to and from Israel and other parts of the Middle East.’

“Mr. Rhodes said: `Our Israel branch is part of our strategy to serve our customers globally and represents our vote of confidence in the Israeli economy. We see major opportunities here and look forward to introducing advanced technology and international banking skills while building new relationships with the Israeli corporate community.’…”

And according to the Citibank website:

“Citi has been actively serving Israeli clients since the late 1980's through its Markets & Banking business…

“With more than 140 employees in Israel, we proudly provide clients with a wide range of corporate, investment and private banking products and services.

“Our Markets & Banking business provides services to leading Israeli companies, financial institutions and public sector organizations, as well as global companies active in the Israeli market….

“Our investment bank is a leading underwriter for Israeli companies seeking to issue equity and debt securities in the global markets…

“Our Global Wealth Management business includes our private banking services, which operate in Israel through a team of private banking professionals working to service the personal needs of our high net worth client base….

“We are also a member of the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange and one of the primary dealers in the government bond market….Citibank is one of the leading and largest Primary Dealers in the Israeli government bond market….

“Among the significant transactions arranged by Citibank in Israel were the privatization of Oil Refineries, the Cellcom international syndicated loan transaction and the Israel Electric marine natural gas pipeline system project financing transaction….

“The Investment Bank is a leading underwriter for Israeli companies seeking to issue equity and debt securities in the global markets, and a leader in mergers and acquisitions advisory. Israeli entities have greatly benefited from Citi’s ability to channel its significant global expertise across a broad range of products and services in key industry segments including technology, healthcare, energy, real estate, financial services, telecom and other segments. The development of the Israeli client relationships across Citi enables Israeli entities to benefit from the valuable introduction to leading global opportunities and world class execution and advice.

“Among innovative and significant deals completed by Citi Investment Bank was successfully advising on the sale of M-Systems, PowerDsine and Actimize; advising Spansion on the acquisition of Saifun; public equity offerings for Cellcom and Delek US; and acquisition financing for Alony-Hetz’s purchase of shares in PSP Switzerland…

“Citibank International Personal Bank in EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) provides Israeli clients with a personalized banking and investment service to help them manage and grow their wealth. Each client is assigned an experienced Hebrew Relationship Manager and has access to financial solutions to suit the client’s needs…. Clients typically have a minimum of US$100,000 or currency equivalent to invest in London, or US$50,000 to domicile in Jersey.”

A September 27, 2006 article that was posted on the Dun & Bradstreet web site at provided some more detail about the business links between the investment bank that U.S. Ambassador to the UK-Designate Susman recently vice-chaired and the Israeli banking system and Tel Aviv Stock Exchange:

“Global Transaction Services, a business of Citigroup Corporate and Investment Banking, and the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE) today announced that Citigroup Israel would provide direct custody and clearing (DCC) services to clients through the TASE Clearing House, making Citigroup the first foreign bank in Israel to offer DCC services to a large international client base. Citibank N.A. was recently approved as a member of TASE and the TASE Clearing House, enabling the bank to offer securities clearing and settlement services in Israel…

“Andrew Gelb, Global Head of Direct Custody and Clearing for Citigroup’s Global Transaction Services business said, `We are extremely excited to provide clients with a wide range of DCC services on-the-ground in Israel. We are in a unique position to leverage our global network and experience in growth markets worldwide to the benefit of our clients and the market.'

“Ralph Shaaya, Citigroup’s Country Officer for Israel, added, `This once again affirms our commitment to the Israeli marketplace through the introduction of a new value-added service to the international institutions investing in Israel.'

“Ester Levanon, CEO of TASE, said, `The joining of Citigroup as a member of TASE’s Clearing House is a continuation of the trend of extending the activity of international entities in the Israeli capital market. This is an important expression of trust of a leading financial group, that will strengthen the Stock Exchange and the Israeli market.'

“TASE and Citigroup have been working together for several years. In 2001 the TASE Clearing House developed the Galaxy System in collaboration with Citigroup. Galaxy allows members to effectively manage, reconcile and standardize clearing and settlement processes and minimize risk. The system integrates between the high professional standard of the Clearing House in Israel and the high standard financial credibility of Citigroup in the world. Galaxy services currently cater to the US market and will soon be launched in Europe and other global markets. The system provides services to four of the leading banks in Israel.”

And, according a March 11, 2009 Globes-McClatcy-Tribune Information Service article, the Citi Israel Ltd. division of the investment banking firm in which Susman was an executive has also “led deals for Tower Semiconductor Ltd., Gazit Inc. and the most recent overseas bond offering by Israel Electric Corporation.”

So don’t expect the Obama Administration’s new Ambassador to the United Kingdom to be eager to invite many Palestinian solidarity activists in the UK who have been involved in the recent “Boycott Israel” street protests in London to party with him much at the U.S. Embassy there.

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