The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is holding confirmation hearings this afternoon for five nominees. One of the nominees, Jide J. Zeitlin, is being nominated to be Representative of the United States to the United Nations for U.N. Management and Reform and to hold the rank of Ambassador. There are a number of issues the Committee should explore during their deliberations on Zeitlin’s nomination.
As discussed in an article today in The Washington Post, Zeitlin “has faced some financial setbacks and clashes as a private investor, including legal complications involving a telecommunications start-up he owns in India and the bankruptcy of a pharmaceutical company he helped finance.” Specifically, an Indian firm is accusing his company of reneging on a contract to pay for wireless towers in India. An Indian court has ordered the liquidation of his firm to pay for the contract.
The matter is still being litigated not necessarily unusual—after all, a number of businessmen encounter financial difficulties and wrongfully undergo court action. However, there are other troubling issues in Zeitlin’s background.
As discussed in The Washington Post article and other news stories, Zeitlin was sued in 2006 by American Tower Corp., a rival company of Zeitlin’s, for impersonating its chief executive and e-mailing negative articles about American Tower to investors with the intent of dissuading them. As the Post describes:
In 2006, Zeitlin was sued over allegations that he defamed a rival firm, American Tower Corp., and impersonated its chief executive, James D. Taiclet Jr., in cyberspace, according to a complaint in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. American Tower voluntarily withdrew its suit in early 2008 without any financial settlement or public admission of fault by Zeitlin, according to a company statement.
The complaint alleged that Zeitlin provided a magazine reporter with negative information about American Tower and then forwarded the article to two of the company’s major institutional investors, Thomas D. Stern of Chieftain Capital Management and Nick Advani of Goldman Sachs. It said Zeitlin used an Internet tool that allowed him to falsely identify Taiclet as the e-mail sender.
American Tower learned of the alleged ruse after Stern sent a reply to the e-mail that went to Taiclet, prompting a company investigation that determined that Zeitlin was the actual author of the e-mail.
Implausibly, the White House dismissed the incident as a joke gone wrong. Sound familiar?
Considering the enormous challenge posed in reforming the notoriously mismanaged United Nations, the Senate should focus on sending the best person to oversee UN management and reform.