Goldman Sachs’ latest envoy to Washington, Robert Hormats, defended his record today about indirectly supporting a murderous Sudanese government by cheerleading the PetroChina IPO.
Facing questions as part of his nomination to be Under Secretary of State for Economic, Energy and Agricultural Affairs, Hormats said while he was “not involved in the structuring or implementation” of the 2000 IPO, he was concerned about PetroChina supporting the Sudanese government and was assured on “repeated occasions” by deal-makers that IPO funds would not get to Sudan (video of the hearing here).
Activists seem satisfied. Sam Bell, Executive Director of Genocide Intervention Network, which has pushed the issue, tells us this today:
We are happy that the 2000 PetroChina IPO was raised during today’s confirmation hearing. Although he did not say so explicitly, Mr. Hormats seemed to regret his role in the IPO and concede that statements he made at the time turned out to be misleading.
That’s fair. But recall that Goldman and Hormats were so eager to subdue Sudan concerns and get the deal done they pushed PetroChina in the press before they were allowed. The investment bank settled with the SEC for $2 million because of it, but only after the PetroChina IPO, which bypassed U.S. sanctions against Sudan.
Bell warns it could happen again:
I would have liked to hear what advice Mr. Hormats would give to individuals who today find themselves in the position he was in. On Monday, a company with significant interests in Sudan’s oil sector successfully launched an IPO and additional companies operating in Sudan and other areas plagued by mass atrocities are rumoured to be considering IPOs.
Judging from the friendly tone of Senators’ statements today, Hormats will probably get confirmed. It’s not the end of the world — he may take human rights more seriously because of activist pressure — but there are still important questions about the Goldman executive’s link to PetroChina, Sudan, and genocide in Darfur. They’ll probably never get fully answered, and the same thing could happen again.