What you are about to read is the transcript of a video conference between the President of a South American Nation and two senior consultants at the PR firm Fitzwell-Delano Consultants. This conversation is part of a trove of recently leaked documents that show how the powerful make use of international crisis management firms, through ethically dubious tactics, to mitigate the outrage generated by other massive leaks, such as the Pandora Papers. Though these leaks involve several PR firms, being the largest and most prestigious one, they are called the Fitzwell-Delano Leaks.
SENIOR CONSULTANT 1 (SC 1): Is this on… Yeah, OK? Are we gonna have interpreters or … WHAT, they’re charging $750 hours for a day’s work? Well screw that… yeah, I know it’s a cheaper rate than in the USA, but still. Damn, who the hell do these people think they are they can start charging union rates? Whatever, apparently the client is fluent in English and has even taught at Harvard… What’s that? He isn’t very good at it? We’ll have to do. OK, they’re logging in… President Piñera! Allow us to welcome you and your team at Fitzwell-Delano Consultants. Before we get started, we must assure you that confidentiality is the cornerstone of our business…
SENIOR CONSULTANT 2 (SC 2): The cornerstone!
SC 1: … and we have taken every necessary precaution to guarantee that. For example, this videoconference has end-to-end encryption provided by state-of-the-art software, developed by Huawei.
SC 2: Are you familiar with Fitzwell-Delano’s history Mr. President?
SC 1: Fitzwell-Delano wrote the book on crisis management, over 120 years ago, when our founders helped none other than William Randolph Hearst dodge slanderous accusations that he had slandered Spain to get us to go to war.
SC 2: Ever since, we have provided our services to a who’s who of historical figures, including King Leopold II, Enver and Talaat Pasha, Lord Mountbatten, Chun Doo-hwan, Henry Kissinger, Hosni Mubarak, Carlos Saúl Menem, Li Peng, and P.W. Botha.
SC 1: Now, let’s get to the matter at hand. As it is now of public knowledge, you have found yourself link… associ… no, that’s not the word…
SC 2: How about “named”? (AGREEMENT NOISES) Named in the recent Pandora Papers leaks. The first thing you need to know is that you are not the only Global Leader here, at Fitzwell-Delano, who’s found himself…
SC 1: Affected?
SC 2: Affected by these reports. This means we can start working on a coordinated response. You must not forget that you. are. not. alone. in. this. We have… who do we have?
SC 2: Such a terrible situation that country is living!
SC 1: Heartbreaking! These men will have to deal with the double toll of these accusations and the completely unrelated and inexplicable economic downturn of their country.
SC 2: Also, there is another Head of Government who also happens to be a billionaire whose case we are handling, we have the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic in our roster…
SC 1: I can assure you… we can assure you that we see you, we feel you and we understand how troubling these times might be for you. What can I say, the media is relentless against those in power and they forget their humanity!
SC 2: Relentless!
SC 1: I’m thinking of this other president, he is not our client (he is currently at Schwantz & Figa), but the man has worked hard to climb to the top and yes, he has made a little fortune on the way… Mr.Uhuru Kenyatta, President of Kenya, have you met him?
SC 2: Entire family legacies tarnished!
SC 1: Who else are we managing? Oh right! We have several clients who are your regional counterparts, like President Luis Abinader from the Dominican Republic, and Guillermo Lasso, President of Ecuador. And to be fully transparent, basically the entire country of Panama.
SC 1: I think we can make a good case that you is the actual, collective victims because no one is regulating these offshore tax havens, you have all fallen prey to the confusion of the system itself!
SC 2: But let’s get the situation affecting you, President Piñera. Now, as you might be figuring out by now, with all this hoopla, we have been a little bit swamped…
SC 1: DON’T USE THAT WORD.
SC 2: (SOUND OF A GASP) I’m sorry! We have been stretched a little bit thin, so we haven’t been able to fully read up on your … predicament. But we have done a little bit of background research on you, and let me tell Mr. President Piñera, you are a survivor.
SC 1: You are not going to give up!
SC 2: I don’t think this will stop you, because you will work harder! You are a SUR-VI-VOR.
SC 1: You are going to make it!
SC 2: And you will keep on surviving. Just look at everything you have had to overcome to become both a billionaire businessman and twice President of Chile. Born to a humble diplomat, counting only two former Presidents among your ancestors. You happened to wander into one of the three schools where the entire Chilean elite sends their kids, but you still made the best out of that chance! You stroke gold by introducing credit cards in Chile and controlling that market, something that certainly has nothing to do with the fact your older brother was a key advisor and minister to the dictatorship…
SC 1: AHEM.
SC 2: … The military regime, or that he privatized the entire pension system. I mean, everybody knows you two are estranged! Then you managed to overcome an overblown criminal investigation and arrest warrant just because the bank you managed did some movements with… what? A measly $38 million?
SC 1: Absurd regulations.
SC 2: And even though you came out of that mishap stronger than ever, you made an enemy of one of the richest men in Chile, which set your political career back decades. But after nearly two decades of political and business career, you became the president in 2010… only to have your entire first term interrupted by waves of massive protests.
SC 1: We had our hands FULL between 2010 and 2011! Bad for your line of work, great for ours. If I may, as a constructive criticism, and yes, hindsight is 20/20… but the unrest could’ve been handled better.
SC 2: And yet you managed to overcome that! Sure, your entire political camp suffered a catastrophic defeat in the next General Elections, pretty much starting a whole new political cycle in your country, and yet you still managed to get reelected after President Bachelet’s second term.
SC 1: The Venezuela boogeyman. It never fails.
SC 2: And when your Government was struck by yet another series of massive protests, you still managed to overcome impeachment on the grounds of spurious charges of human rights violations. And sure, you and your allies might’ve lost the two most important elections in the history of your country by a landslide. But hey! What’s done it’s done and your term ends in five months and the elections are in November. Unfortunately, this Pandora Papers thing won’t let you live out the remainder of your presidency in peace.
SC 1: That whole thing is something we do with our clients, as an exercise to get us into the mood of fixing things. It’s a series of Affirmations.
SC 1: Indeed. So tell us Mr. President, and please, feel free to be as transparent with us as you would be with your lawyers: What is the nature of this compromising information? (VOICES ON SCREEN UNINTELLIGIBLE) Hmmm, Ok, so when you took the oath of office in 2010, you put your assets on a blind trust … And you left your two sons in charge. That’s very fine, but if I could have a say, Mr. President, it’s always a good idea to consider your bringing in your daughters, you know, it’s good to show yourself as an ally.
SC 2: Girlbosses!
SC 1: And in that process, your sons were in charge of selling your share of a mining project to your childhood friend, hedge fund manager Carlos Alberto Délano… and you did the deed in the British Virgin Islands? How much did the whole thing net you? $152 million? Not bad. And let me guess, the opposition is making a big deal about the taxes, even though you were legitimately trying to …
SC 2: Lessen.
SC 1: Lessen your tax burden. Ok, that’s easy to solve, what we usually recommend you people in these cases is to do a few donations to charity and, say, negotiate a fine of no more than $20 million with your tax revenue service. What… that’s not all? Take your time Mr. Piñera, collect your thoughts… Ok, so the deal was made through a series of LLCs and stuff, that’s par the course…
SC 2: Yeah, don’t worry Mr. President, no one understands those things, even the smartest folks will skip those parts in the in-depth articles.
SC 1: But… what do you mean there is more? OK, but sir, why do you sound so worried. This is all completely overblown.
SC 2: A mountain of a molehill!
SC 1: Everybody does this. These deals… sure, they might look bad and they will give fodder to your opposition, but no one is going to care. If I might say so, and I’m just putting myself in the shoes of the people who don’t like you, this is minor stuff.
SC 2: You’ve been accused of worse.
SC 1: So please sir, go ahead, tell us “the bad part”… Ok, the purchase was done in three installments. And the third one was conditional to the government not enacting environmental restrictions in the area of that mine? Ok, so that could look like a conflict of interest. But I mean, as far as I understand, it’s in the middle of a desert, right? Plus, you have also done a lot for the environment, you stopped the construction of some fossil-fuel-powered plants or something? What’s that… it’s right next to a National Reserve? Let me check the place, give me a minute… Oh, a maritime reserve that has dolphins, whales, sea lions and is key to the survival of an adorable endangered penguin? Oh no, sir, this… this might be an actual problem. People love penguins and dolphins!
SC 2: OK, but, but… we are talking about a mine here, right? I’m guessing it’s aways from the shoreline, I don’t understand what the impact would… YOU WANT TO BUILD A HARBOUR TO EXPORT THE ORE NEARBY? Oh, sir, this is not good sir. No… take a deep breath (DEEP BREATH IS TAKEN). Ok, as far as we know, this whole thing happened years ago, and it was your sons who were in charge of it, I mean, we could always say you had no knowledge or involvement … say, how close are you to the friend you sold the stake too… YOU ARE BEST CHILDHOOD FRIENDS?
SC 1: Still, still. I’m going to guess you made sure the regulations were not lifted right? Say what… IT’S ALREADY BEEN AUTHORIZED? Wait, did this happen in 2010 or… IT HAPPENED IN AUGUST? (DEEP CONTRITION NOISES)
SC 2: Oh my god sir, this is not good… please tell me that at least this information has been contained within your country… JANE GOODALL HAS MADE A VIDEO TO RAISE AWARENESS? OHHH NOOO (THEY SPEND THE NEXT 2 MINUTES MAKING KEY AND PEELE NOISES)
SC 1: Mr. President, we are not sure how we can help you now. Can you at least provide some character references about your friend and partner, Mr. Delano?
SC 2: Who probably shares an ancestor with our founder… HE HAS BEEN PROSECUTED FOR ILLEGAL CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS AND TAX FRAUD IN ONE OF THE WORST SCANDALS TO HIT CHILE? AND HE GOT AWAY WITH PROBATION AND ETHICS LESSONS AS PUNISHMENT? Who was the Attorney in charge… A DISTANT COUSIN OF HIS? ARE ANY OF YOU CHILEAN BILLIONAIRES NOT RELATED?
SC 1: No wonder this Attorney is trying to tighten the screws around you on this whole thing… You know what sir? I think you better weather it out and hope the opposition doesn’t have enough votes to impeach you again. I would recommend fleeing the country after your term is done, but apparently, all the Chileans abroad are former exiles and hate your guts. Try Dubai maybe?
SC 2: And from what I heard, there are some ethnic conflicts in the south, I would recommend you do something there to distract… oh, you already declared a state of emergency?, and you sent troops in? Yeah, it’s the best you can do for now, at least is catnip for the people in your side of the aisle. Sure, it might be an overreaction, but that’s up for the next president to deal with, right?
SC 1: We would recommend you to resign, like Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurtz, but I don’t think the center-right needs another loss now. We hope you have a private jet fully loaded on a tarmac nearby. We wish you luck Mr. President, but we have to direct our efforts to people who are in a better political position to dodge inquiries, like your friend Boris Johnson.
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