November 28, 2003

THE ECONOMIST has a story on the Executive Life / Credit Lyonnais scandal — which may result in high French politicos being tried by the United States — and another on Jacques Chirac’s efforts to keep things covered up:

Both the bank and CDR are keen to close the affair. France’s finance minister has no problems with the proffered deal. Not so Jacques Chirac, France’s president. Late on November 25th, the French president simply refused to sign. The reason is that the proposed settlement still excludes François Pinault, one of France’s richest businessmen and one of Mr Chirac’s closest friends. Mr Pinault, whose company Artémis bought Executive Life and made fat profits, was behind the derailing of the settlement last month. After Mr Pinault lobbied Mr Chirac, France’s justice minister said that his country wanted a “global” settlement, leaving “no one outside”. . . .

It is unclear why the American camp is risking its own credibility by playing along with what amounts to French political cronyism.

I don’t think that American credibility has ever been enhanced by playing along with French political cronyism. Are we trying not to embarrass Chirac? And if so, er, why?