Monday, March 16, 2009

Bonus Money at Troubled A.I.G. Draws Heavy Criticism


YM Yik/European Pressphoto Agency

Edward M. Liddy, the government-appointed chairman of A.I.G., argued that some bonuses were needed to keep the most skilled executives.

WASHINGTON — Obama administration officials and Republicans alike were nearly universal in condemning the $165 million in bonuses that the American International Group, which has received more than $170 billion in taxpayer bailout money from the Treasury and Federal Reserve, is to pay executives in the business unit that brought the company to the brink of collapse last year.

“There are a lot of terrible things that have happened in the last 18 months, but what’s happened at A.I.G. is the most outrageous,” said Lawrence H. Summers, President Obama’s chief economic adviser, during an appearance Sunday on ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos.” “What that company did, the way it was not regulated, the way no one was watching, what’s proved necessary — is outrageous.”

The bonus plan established for the financial products unit before the federal government stepped in called for $220 million in retention pay for 400 employees for 2008. About $55 million of that was paid in December and the remaining $165 million was paid on Friday.

The retention plan also calls for another $230 million in bonuses for 2009 that are due to be paid by March 2010. Combined with the 2008 bonuses, that would bring the total retention pay for financial products executives to $450 million. But in response to pressure from Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, A.I.G. agreed to reduce its 2009 bonuses for the financial products unit by 30 percent.

The payments to executives in that unit are in addition to $121 million in previously scheduled bonuses for the company’s senior executives and 6,400 employees across the sprawling corporation. Last week, Mr. Geithner pressured A.I.G. to cut the $9.6 million going to the top 50 executives in half and tie the rest to performance.

The payment of so much money at a company at the heart of the financial collapse that sent the broader economy into a tailspin will almost certainly fuel a popular backlash against the government’s efforts to prop up Wall Street.

Word of the bonuses last week stirred such deep consternation inside the Obama administration that Mr. Geithner told the firm they were unacceptable and demanded they be renegotiated, a senior administration official said. But the bonuses will go forward because lawyers said the firm was contractually obligated to pay them.

Austan Goolsbee, staff director of the president’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board, on Sunday detailed Mr. Geithner’s reaction.

“He stepped in and berated them, got them to reduce the bonuses following every legal means he has to do this,” Mr. Goolsbee said on “Fox News Sunday.” “I don’t know why they would follow a policy that’s really not sensible, is obviously going to ignite the ire of millions of people, and we’ve done exactly what we can do to prevent this kind of thing from happening again.

Mr. Summers suggested that the government’s ability to require the bonuses be scaled back was restricted by preexisting contracts, even though he did not specify what those restrictions may be.

“We are a country of law,” said Mr. Summers, one of several economic officials to hit the Sunday-morning talk show circuit. “There are contracts. The government cannot just abrogate contracts. Every legal step possible to limit those bonuses is being taken by Secretary Geithner and by the Federal Reserve system.”

Mr. Goolsbee explained it this way: “I think the root of the problem has been some of the people have things written in their contract that say, ‘Look, you sell this much life insurance, you get a bonus of X,’ and it’s in their contract and that part can’t be changed.”

Mr. Summers also appeared on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” remaining consistent in his core message about the bonuses: “It is outrageous. The whole situation at AIG is outrageous. What taxpayers are being forced to do is outrageous.”

Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican minority leader, worried about the message the bonuses send to other companies receiving bailout money. “If you’re going to take the government as a partner, the message here, I’m afraid, to any business out there that’s thinking about taking government money, is “Let’s enter into a bunch of contracts real quick, and we’ll have the taxpayers pay bonuses to our employees,’ ” he said on “This Week.”

But Mr. McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, also criticized the Obama administration.

“For them to simply sit there and blame it on the previous administration or claim contract — we all know that contracts are valid in this country, but they need to be looked at,” he said. “Did they enter into these contracts knowing full well that, as a practical matter, the taxpayers of the United States were going to be reimbursing their employees? Particularly employees who got them into this mess in the first place. I think it’s an outrage.”

A.I.G., nearly 80 percent of which is now owned by the government, has defended its bonuses, arguing that they were promised last year before the crisis and cannot be legally canceled. In a letter to Mr. Geithner, Edward M. Liddy, the government-appointed chairman of A.I.G., said at least some bonuses were needed to keep the most skilled executives.

“We cannot attract and retain the best and the brightest talent to lead and staff the A.I.G. businesses — which are now being operated principally on behalf of American taxpayers — if employees believe their compensation is subject to continued and arbitrary adjustment by the U.S. Treasury,” he wrote Mr. Geithner on Saturday.

Still, Mr. Liddy seemed stung by his talk with Mr. Geithner, calling their conversation last Wednesday “a difficult one for me” and noting that he receives no bonus himself. “Needless to say, in the current circumstances,” Mr. Liddy wrote, “I do not like these arrangements and find it distasteful and difficult to recommend to you that we must proceed with them.”

An A.I.G. spokeswoman said Saturday that the company had no comment beyond the letter. The bonuses were first reported by The Washington Post.

The senior government official, who was not authorized to speak on the record, said the administration was outraged. “It is unacceptable for Wall Street firms receiving government assistance to hand out million-dollar bonuses, while hard-working Americans bear the burden of this economic crisis,” the official said.

Of all the financial institutions that have been propped up by taxpayer dollars, none has received more money than A.I.G. and none has infuriated lawmakers more with practices that policy makers have called reckless.

The bonuses will be paid to executives at A.I.G.’s financial products division, the unit that wrote trillions of dollars’ worth of credit-default swaps that protected investors from defaults on bonds backed in many cases by subprime mortgages.

The bonuses for the 400 employees range from as little as $1,000 to as much as $6.5 million. Seven executives at the financial products unit were entitled to receive more than $3 million in bonuses.

Mr. Liddy, whom Federal Reserve and Treasury officials recruited after A.I.G. faltered last September and received its first round of bailout money, said the bonuses and “retention pay” had been agreed to in early 2008 and were for the most part legally required.

The company told the Treasury that there were two categories of bonus payments, with the first to be given to senior executives. The administration official said Mr. Geithner had told A.I.G. to revise them to protect taxpayer dollars and tie future payments to performance.

The second group of bonuses covers some 2008 retention payments from contracts entered into before government involvement in A.I.G. Indeed, in his letter to Mr. Geithner, Mr. Liddy wrote that he had shown the details of the $450 million bonus pool to outside lawyers and been told that A.I.G. had no choice but to follow through with the payment schedule.

The administration official said the Treasury Department did its own legal analysis and concluded that those contracts could not be broken. The official noted that even a provision recently pushed through Congress by Senator Christopher J. Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat, had an exemption for such bonus agreements already in place.

But the official said the administration will force A.I.G. to eventually repay the cost of the bonuses to the taxpayers as part of the agreement with the firm, which is being restructured.

A.I.G. did cut other bonuses, Mr. Liddy explained, but those were part of the compensation for people who dealt in other parts of the company and had no direct involvement with the derivatives.

Mr. Liddy wrote that A.I.G. hoped to reduce its retention bonuses for 2009 by 30 percent. He said the top 25 executives at the financial products division had also agreed to reduce their salary for the rest of 2009 to $1.

Ever since it was bailed out by the government last fall, A.I.G. has been defending itself against accusations that it was richly compensating people who caused one of the biggest financial crises in American history.

A.I.G.’s main business is insurance, but the financial products unit sold hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of derivatives, the notorious credit-default swaps that nearly toppled the entire company last fall.

A.I.G. had set up a special bonus pool for the financial products unit early in 2008, before the company’s near collapse, when problems stemming from the mortgage crisis were becoming clear and there were concerns that some of the best-informed derivatives specialists might leave. It locked in a total amount, $450 million, for the financial products unit and prepared to pay it in a series of installments, to encourage people to stay.

Only part of the payments had been made by last fall, when A.I.G. nearly collapsed. In documents provided to the Treasury, A.I.G. said it was required to pay about $165 million in bonuses on or before Sunday. Under a deal reached last week, A.I.G. agreed that the top 50 executives would get half of the $9.6 million they were supposed to get by March 15. The second half of their bonuses would be paid out in two installments in July and in September. To get those payments, Treasury officials said, A.I.G. would have to show that it had made progress toward its goal of selling off business units and repaying the government. The financial products unit is now being painstakingly wound down.

Senator Bob Corker, Republican from Tennessee, was one of the few officials on Sunday to temper his public reaction to the A.I.G. bonuses, saying he wanted more information.

“I do think it’s important to know whether these are commission payments for products that brokers have sold, or whether this is, in fact, a bonus,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.” “And I think those are two very different things.”

Mr. Corker added that the reaction to the bonuses might serve some good: “These entities that are receiving government money, unfortunately receiving government money, our money — I do think they have to play by a different set of rules, and hopefully that will cause institutions across this country not to want to take government money and quickly move away from us because of us getting under the hood like this.”

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Madoff Had Accomplices: His Victims


Brendan McDermid/Reuters

Outside of court, Sharon Lissauer said she had lost everything to Bernard Madoff.

Standing in the security line Thursday morning, waiting to get into the federal courthouse in Manhattan, I started chatting with the man behind me. He looked to be in his early 60s, and though he was well dressed, he looked a little haggard. I asked him if he was a victim of Bernard L. Madoff, who would soon be pleading guilty to masterminding the greatest Ponzi scheme in history. He said he was.

Did he want to talk about it? He wasn’t sure, he said. I asked his name. “I’m not going to give my name unless there is some benefit for me,” he said dourly. “I haven’t had too many benefits lately.”

How much had he lost? I asked. He grimaced. “I don’t really want to say,” he replied, but conceded that it was a lot.

What was he hoping for today? He shrugged.

As we passed through security, I asked him what role he thought the government should be playing. It was as if I had flipped a switch. Suddenly, his reticence fell away.

“The S.E.C.,” he said, referring to the Securities and Exchange Commission, which muffed multiple opportunities to catch Mr. Madoff, “they played a big role in this. They have a lot to answer for.” He said that the tax code should be changed so that Madoff victims can recoup taxes they paid on profits that turned out to be illusory — no matter how far in the past those taxes were paid. He thought the Securities Investor Protection Corporation, which tries to put at least a little money in the hands of investors whose firms have gone under, should give victims more than the current $500,000 maximum.

“I think there should be some legislation,” he said finally. What kind of legislation? What he was hoping for, he said, was that the government would set up a fund for Madoff victims — maybe give them 60 percent of their losses, he suggested.

We turned a corner, and saw a long line of people waiting for a spot in the courtroom — far more people, it was obvious, than could ever fit in the chambers. (There was a large overflow room, where I watched the proceedings.) Most of them were holding notebooks; this was clearly the media line. “Is there a line for the victims?” the man asked the marshal.

“Are you a victim?” said the marshal. As the man nodded yes, the marshal said, “Come with me.” He took the man to the elevator and whisked him upstairs and directly into the courtroom.

I can’t deny that there was something gratifying about watching Bernard Madoff handcuffed and carted off to jail Thursday morning. He was — is — the worst of the worst. By his own admission, his Ponzi scheme ran for nearly two decades; by contrast, the original Ponzi scheme, dreamed up by an Italian immigrant named Charles Ponzi in 1919, was exposed within eight months. Many of Madoff’s investors have been left with nothing, having foolishly entrusted their life savings to a man they thought “was God,” as Elie Wiesel put it not long ago. Mr. Wiesel’s foundation lost more than $15 million in the Madoff fraud, and he and his wife, Marion, lost their personal fortune as well.

Still, the proceedings were a bit of a letdown. After all the anticipation — some reporters had begun lining up outside the courthouse at 5:30 in the morning — it was a perfunctory affair, completed in an hour. Much of it was legal boilerplate. Mr. Madoff was expressionless throughout; when he read a statement recounting his crimes and expressing “remorse,” he sounded like a man reading a speech he hadn’t bothered to rehearse.

Judge Denny Chin had made clear that he was not going to allow the Madoff guilty plea to turn into a Wailing Wall for the victims, so most of them stayed away. Though Judge Chin allowed them to speak, he insisted they stick to the issue before the court: whether he should accept Mr. Madoff’s guilty plea. One woman argued that the judge should not and force a trial instead, for the “opportunity to find out where the money is.” But of course there is no money — certainly nothing close to the supposed $60 billion plus he was “investing.” That is the whole point of a Ponzi scheme: the fraudster uses money coming in from new investors to pay old investors, pretending that that is their gain.

Afterward, the TV cameras surrounded a woman named Sharon Lissauer. She had not been wealthy, she said, but she’s lost everything. She didn’t know what she was going to do. She was weeping. It was hard not to feel sad for her — indeed, for all the victims of Mr. Madoff’s evil-doing. But one also has to wonder: what were they thinking?

At a panel a month ago, put together by Portfolio magazine, Mr. Wiesel expressed, better than I’ve ever heard it, why people gave Mr. Madoff their money. “I remember that it was a myth that he created around him,” Mr. Wiesel said, “that everything was so special, so unique, that it had to be secret. It was like a mystical mythology that nobody could understand.” Mr. Wiesel added: “He gave the impression that maybe 100 people belonged to the club. Now we know thousands of them were cheated by him.”

And yet, just about anybody who actually took the time to kick the tires of Mr. Madoff’s operation tended to run in the other direction. James R. Hedges IV, who runs an advisory firm called LJH Global Investments, says that in 1997 he spent two hours asking Mr. Madoff basic questions about his operation. “The explanation of his strategy, the consistency of his returns, the way he withheld information — it was a very clear set of warning signs,” said Mr. Hedges. When you look at the list of Madoff victims, it contains a lot of high-profile names — but almost no serious institutional investors or endowments. They insist on knowing the kind of information Mr. Madoff refused to supply.

I suppose you could argue that most of Mr. Madoff’s direct investors lacked the ability or the financial sophistication of someone like Mr. Hedges. But it shouldn’t have mattered. Isn’t the first lesson of personal finance that you should never put all your money with one person or one fund? Even if you think your money manager is “God”? Diversification has many virtues; one of them is that you won’t lose everything if one of your money managers turns out to be a crook.

“These were people with a fair amount of money, and most of them sought no professional advice,” said Bruce C. Greenwald, who teaches value investing at the Graduate School of Business at Columbia University. “It’s like trying to do your own dentistry.” Mr. Hedges said, “It is a real lesson that people cannot abdicate personal responsibility when it comes to their personal finances.”

And that’s the point. People did abdicate responsibility — and now, rather than face that fact, many of them are blaming the government for not, in effect, saving them from themselves. Indeed, what you discover when you talk to victims is that they harbor an anger toward the S.E.C. that is as deep or deeper than the anger they feel toward Mr. Madoff. There is a powerful sense that because the agency was asleep at the switch, they have been doubly victimized. And they want the government to do something about it.

I spoke, for instance, to Phyllis Molchatsky, who lost $1.7 million with Mr. Madoff — and is now suing the S.E.C. to recoup her losses, on the grounds the agency was so negligent it should be forced to pony up. Her story is sure to rouse sympathy — Mr. Madoff was recommended to her by her broker as a safe place to put her money, and she felt virtuous making 9 or 10 percent a year when others were reaching for the stars. The failure of the S.E.C., she told me, “is a double slap in the face.” And she felt the government owed her. Her lawyer, who represents several dozen Madoff victims, told me he “wouldn’t be averse” to a victims’ fund.

Even Mr. Wiesel thought the government should help the victims — or at least the charitable institutions among them. “The government should come and say, ‘We bailed out so many others, we can bail you out, and when you will do better, you can give us back the money,’ ” he said at the Portfolio event.

But why? What happened to the victims of Bernard Madoff is terrible. But every day in this country, people lose money due to financial fraud or negligence. Innocent investors who bought stock in Enron lost millions when that company turned out to be a fraud; nobody made them whole. Half a dozen Ponzi schemes have been discovered since Mr. Madoff was arrested in December. People lose it all because they start a company that turns out to be misguided, or because they do something that is risky, hoping to hit the jackpot. Taxpayers don’t bail them out, and they shouldn’t start now. Did the S.E.C. foul up? You bet. But that doesn’t mean the investors themselves are off the hook. Investors blaming the S.E.C. for their decision to give every last penny to Bernie Madoff is like a child blaming his mother for letting him start a fight while she wasn’t looking.

Late Thursday afternoon, I called Richard C. Breeden, the former chairman of the S.E.C. who had recently served as a trustee to get money back for investors who had been involved in a billion-dollar Ponzi scheme that was uncovered more than a decade ago. He had miraculously been able to pay investors close to 60 cents on the dollar, partly by increasing the value of the assets that the scheme was built on. That’s far more than any Madoff victim is going to get. (So far, the Madoff trustee has identified only $1 billion in assets.) Tragically, Mr. Breeden said, some people who had invested in the Ponzi scheme that he helped clean up turned around and gave their money to Mr. Madoff.

“I guess some people never learn,” Mr. Breeden said.

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Swiss to end secret bank accounts

Switzerland is bowing to international pressure, agreeing to end its policy of allowing secretive banking, officials said.

The Times of London reported Saturday that the move means Switzerland will join Liechtenstein, Luxembourg and Andorra, which also agreed this week to share limited information on their accounts on request from foreign governments.

The newspaper said Zurich's decision to end its 300 years of banking secrecy precedes the G20 meeting, where British Prime Minister Gordon Brown plans to press for international tax havens.

Switzerland has said it would share information on bank accounts with other countries on individual cases. Swiss Finance Minister Hans-Rudolf Merz said despite the change, there would be no "fishing expeditions" for information.

"It's an enormous change, the most fascinating development since the end of the Second World War," said Jay Krause, a partner at Withers. "The Swiss continue to say that banking secrecy remains. That is in part true but it is for ever changed."

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Bailout King AIG Still to Pay Millions In Bonuses

CEO Liddy said the 25 highest paid employees in Financial Products would be paid $1 for the rest of '09.
CEO Liddy said the 25 highest paid employees in Financial Products would be paid $1 for the rest of '09. (From Aig - Via Bloomberg News)
By David Cho and Brady Dennis

Insurance giant American International Group will award hundreds of millions of dollars in employee bonuses and retention pay despite a confrontation Wednesday between the chief executive and Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner.

But the company agreed to revise some executive payments after what AIG's leader, Edward M. Liddy, called a "difficult" conversation.

The bonuses and other payments have been exasperating government officials, who have committed $170 billion to keep the company afloat -- far more than has been offered to any other financial firm.

The issue came to a head when Geithner called Liddy and told him the payments were unacceptable and had to be renegotiated, said an administration official who was not authorized to comment on the Geithner conversation.

In a letter to Geithner yesterday, Liddy agreed to restructure some of the payments. But Liddy said he had "grave concerns" about the impact on the firm's ability to retain talented staff "if employees believe that their compensation is subject to continued and arbitrary adjustment by the U.S. Treasury."

Lawyers at both the Treasury Department and AIG have concluded that the firm would risk a lawsuit if it scrapped the retention payments at the AIG Financial Products subsidiary, whose troublesome derivative trading nearly sank AIG. The company promised before the government started bailing out the firm in September that employees would be awarded more than $400 million in retention pay this year and next.

"I do not like these arrangements and find it distasteful and difficult to recommend to you that we must proceed with them," Liddy wrote.

At the same time, the company said in documents provided to the Treasury, any steps that encourage specialists at AIG Financial Products to leave could open the U.S. government to further risk because of the hazards still posed by the $1.6 trillion portfolio of complex derivatives those employees are working to dispose.

AIG's top seven executives, including Liddy, already agreed in November to forgo their bonuses through this year. Last week, AIG agreed to restructure bonuses for the next 43 highest ranking officers at the company, who are to receive half of their bonuses -- which total $9.6 million -- immediately, the administration official said. Another quarter of that would be disbursed on July 15 and the rest on Sept. 15. But these last two payments would depend on whether the company makes progress in restructuring its business and paying back taxpayers.

In addition, federal officials plan to recoup some of this bonus and retention pay in restructuring the company, an administration official said.

Officials at the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve took over AIG in the fall, fearing one of the world's most successful conglomerates had grown so intertwined with the global economy that the firm's impending failure could have disastrous consequences.

In return for the bailout, the government took an 80 percent ownership stake in the company. Liddy was recruited by former Treasury secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. to run the company. Since then, the rescue package has ballooned. But both the Bush and Obama administrations have been reluctant to completely and explicitly nationalize the company, though this could have avoided the current flap over bonus payments, first reported by The Washington Post.

AIG officials said debate over the bonuses and retention pay has been simmering for months. During the past year, the company has repeatedly disclosed these payments in public financial filings. But as lawmakers increasingly clamored for details of their size, outrage grew in Congress and beyond.

Although the AIG Financial Products unit is proceeding with the payments, Liddy said the company would try to reduce future retention pay by at least 30 percent. In addition, the 25 highest-paid employees at Financial Products have agreed to reduce their salary to $1 for the remainder of 2009, Liddy wrote. Salaries for the rest of the firm's employees will be cut by 10 percent.

The Obama administration has been sensitive to how companies receiving government bailout money indulge their employees. Spending on jets, extravagant office furniture and bonus checks -- while not always a significant portion of corporate spending -- sours the public's view of the financial rescue effort at a time when the administration is considering asking Congress for billions of dollars more to help banks.

AIG officials say that some of the upcoming bonuses are relatively modest once they are divided among employees. About 4,700 people in the company's global insurance units are receiving $600 million in retention pay. In addition, about $121 million in corporate bonuses will go to more than 6,400 people, for an average payout of about $19,000, according to AIG.

"These are not Wall Street bonuses," said one AIG executive, who was not authorized to speak on the record. "This is an insurance company." That executive also noted that the retention bonuses at AIG Financial Products were put in place in early 2008 at a time when it hadn't yet melted down. "They knew that the book was running into trouble," the executive said. "They thought they could weather the storm. But they thought they needed to keep people in their seats. They were worried."

Then, of course, everything changed. Financial Products kept posting bigger and bigger losses, burying AIG under a cash crunch from which it has not recovered.

Since that collapse, company officials say, many Financial Products employees have lost nearly two-thirds of their compensation under the firm's deferred payment plan, in which bonuses are doled out over several years based on the firm's profitability.

The new cutbacks raise the risk that more employees will depart before the firm can be wound down and closed.

"These employees are highly specialized and/or are part of businesses that control billions of dollars of revenue and value that will be needed to repay the U.S. taxpayer," Liddy wrote in a letter last month. "Our competitors understand how valuable our top executives are, and we are acutely aware that they would like to siphon off our most talented leaders."

Over time, both the amount of retention pay and the number of recipients throughout AIG have grown.

Since taking over the rescue effort of AIG, the Obama administration has imposed stricter compensation rules, banning golden parachute payments for executives leaving firms and barring executive compensation above $500,000, except in the form of stock that cannot be cashed in until the government's loans are paid back.

But the government could not revoke bonuses promised before the government's rescue efforts began, officials said.

Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.), a leading critic of excessive executive compensation, backed a measure earlier this year to curb the practices but it included an exception for bonuses agreed to before Feb. 11, 2009.

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Israeli soldier shot American activist in face with tear gas can

David Edwards and Stephen C. Webster

TwitThis An American activist who participated in a Palestinian 'solidarity' demonstration is in serious condition Saturday after an Israeli soldier shot him in the face with a high-velocity tear gas canister. He underwent surgery early Saturday.

Even as the rescue operation commenced, more tear gas rained down on the demonstrators as soldiers allegedly delayed ambulance access.

"Tristan Anderson, 38, of Oakland, Calif., was wounded Friday in the West Bank village of Naalin, during a protest against Israel's separation barrier," reported the Associated Press. "In the past year, four Palestinians have been killed and scores injured by Israeli troops putting down weekly stone-throwing protests against the barrier, which cuts off Naalin from 300 acres of olive groves."

"The Israeli soldiers were standing on the hill looking over us firing tear-gas canisters" Ulrike Anderson, who was with Tristan when he was hit, told the International Herald-Tribune. "Tristan was hit and fell to the ground. He had a large hole in the front of his head. I tried to stop the bleeding. He was bleeding heavily from the nose."

"Tristan was shot by the new tear-gas canisters that can be shot up to 500 meters," said Teah Lunqvist with the International Solidarity Movement, according to California's IndyBay. "I ran over as I saw someone had been shot, while the Israeli forces continued to fire tear-gas at us. When an ambulance came, the Israeli soldiers refused to allow the ambulance through the checkpoint just outside the village. After 5 minutes of arguing with the soldiers, the ambulance passed."

"Other ISM activists killed or injured by Israeli forces: Rachel Corrie, killed by a bulldozer in 2003; Brian Avery, shot in the face in 2003; and Tom Hurndall, shot to death in 2004," the site notes.

At the Berkeley Daily Planet, Tristan first became known as an environmentalist by sitting in trees to prevent their removal.

“He has worked extensively with Food Not Bombs,” Marcus Kryshka, one of Tristan's long-time friends, told the paper. “He was also heavily involved with the tree-sit.”

"Kryshka said one of the reasons for his trip to Israel 'was to engage in solidarity with the Palestinian protesters.'"

The Israeli army claimed protesters were throwing rocks at the troops.

"Anderson could very well die from his injuries," reported ABC. "And even if he does recover, his friends doubt he'll ever be the same, physically and mentally."

This video is from, broadcast Mar. 13, 2009. It contains graphic images.

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