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Here comes debt swap man again

David Mulford, chairman of CSFB International and long-term friend of the banks, is set to follow such luminaries as JK Galbraith by becoming US ambassador to India. If his past is anything to go by, expect India to do a billion-dollar debt swap within months.

When under-secretary of the treasury for Bush senior, Mulford helped mastermind the Brady bond initiative that guaranteed billions of dollars in emerging-market loans by western investment banks. The banks faced bankruptcy, until the US taxpayer bailed them out through a series of debt swaps coordinated by Mulford.

A decade later, while at CSFB as its version of Citigroup's Bill Rhodes, Mulford helped the banks again, organizing a $29.5 billion debt swap of Argentine debt in a last roll of the dice to prevent a default. The biggest swap in history made bankers rich but failed to prevent the default and was criticized for merely putting off the inevitable.

Things looked bad for Mulford. He was involved in three judicial investigations in Latin America last year - one into an alleged fraud involving the debt mega-swap; one into an alleged joint bank account with Domingo Cavallo, finance minister of Argentina; and one into the collapse of Banco General de Negocios, a Uruguayan bank that had Mulford as a director.

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