The White House announced Wednesday the appointment of seven people who will serve on a financial control board overseeing the restructuring of Puerto Rico’s $72 billion debt.
The board was created in legislation signed into law by President Barack Obama earlier this summer. The law consists of several measures to get the U.S. territory's financial house in order and to keep it from getting sued, along with setting up plans for paying off creditors down the road.
The board, composed of three Democrats and four Republicans, was chosen by the White House from a list provided by congressional leaders from both parties.
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They include a member who supports privatizing Social Security, a law professor who espouses “Christian legal scholarship” and a financial adviser who favors statehood for the island.
Four of the Latinos are Puerto Rican.
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- Andrew Briggs is currently with the American Enterprise Institute and served in the George W. Bush administration, including in the Social Security Administration and supports privatizing the system.
- Jose B. Carrión III is president and principal Partner of HUB International CLC, LLC. He previously served in various positions in the island government, including the Workers Compensation Board.
- Carlos García is the CEO of BayBoston Managers LLC and managing partner of BayBoston Capital L.P., a company he founded in 2013. He has held several financial positions in the past, including president and CEO of island’s Government Development Bank. García, who favors statehood for the island, is considered the architect of Puerto Rico’s controversial Ley 7 (7 Law), which allowed the government to temporarily declare a fiscal emergency and lay off thousands of public sector employees in response to Puerto Rico's fiscal crisis.
- Arthur González is with the New York University School of Law. Judge Gonzalez previously served on the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York from 1995 to 2012, retiring as Chief Judge in 2010.
- José R. González is CEO and [resident of the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York. He has served in a variety of banking and financial services positions, including with Credit Suisse First Boston and with the Government Development Bank of Puerto Rico.
- Ana Matosantos, the only woman on the board, is president of Matosantos Consulting and has been director of the California Department of Finance and deputy director of budgets for the state.
- David Skeel Jr. is a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, having previously taught at Temple University in Philadelphia and in private practice. He authored the book, “True Paradox: How Christianity Makes Sense of Our Complex World.”
“With a broad range of skills and experiences, these officials have the breadth and depth of knowledge that is needed to tackle this complex challenge and put the future of the Puerto Rican people first. In order to be successful, the Financial Oversight and Management Board will need to establish an open process for working with the people and government of Puerto Rico, and the members will have to work collaboratively to build consensus for their decisions,” Obama said in a statement. “The task ahead for Puerto Rico is not an easy one, but I am confident Puerto Rico is up to the challenge of stabilizing the fiscal situation, restoring growth, and building a better future for all Puerto Ricans.”
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The board also has an eighth member, Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro García Padilla, but he will not be able to vote on any recommendations or final decisions. The board’s first order of business is to appoint a president, and that person would then name an executive director who would oversee Puerto Rico’s finances. The García Padilla administration is expected to present sometime next month its budget for the current fiscal year, along with a five-year fiscal policy plan.
Federico de Jesús, principal at FDJ Solutions and a former Obama administration official and deputy director of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration, said the island government has to pay extra close attention to the board from here on out.
"It needs to defend Puerto Ricans' interests before the board and act responsibly so the people can recover economically and regain their self-government as swiftly as possible," de Jesús said.
U.S. Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.) said he plans to keep an eagle eye on the board proceedings.
“Each appointee will receive a letter from me demanding that they commit to recorded votes, release the names of everyone they meet with, hold public hearings, and fully conduct and document all of their activities and pronouncements in English and Spanish so that the people they have been appointed to govern know what they’re up to," Gutierrez said in a statement. "This is especially important because it skews towards appointees from financial institutions and those inclined to be sympathetic to bond holders at the expense of the Puerto Rican people.”
“Rome appointed a proconsul like Pontius Pilate to rule over the lands they conquered and the proconsul had no obligation to tell anyone in any language what he was doing. But those days are over. Puerto Ricans are not conquered and are not slaves," said Gutierrez. "They expect their government to be accountable, transparent, accessible, and comprehensible in their own language. My message is simple, if you join the board, promise to respect the Puerto Rican people; otherwise you are no better than an occupying force.”
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