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Exclusive: Controversial Obama U.N. nominee withdraws for “personal reasons,” official says

Jide Zeitlin, the Obama administration’s nominee to be America’s point man for financial reform at the United Nations, has withdrawn himself from consideration for the job, an administration official tells The Cable. Zeitlin, a former Goldman Sachs executive and telecom entrepreneur, had faced criticism for his business dealings related to Indian contractors and was also ...

Jide Zeitlin, the Obama administration’s nominee to be America’s point man for financial reform at the United Nations, has withdrawn himself from consideration for the job, an administration official tells The Cable.

Zeitlin, a former Goldman Sachs executive and telecom entrepreneur, had faced criticism for his business dealings related to Indian contractors and was also accused of identity fraud for an incident in which he admitted to sending an email to investors masked as coming from one of his competitors. Zeitlin testified before Congress that the email was a prank.

He was approved out of the Senate Foreign Relations committee in November. Just before his hearing, the Washington Post detailed some of his business dealings that have come under scrutiny. For example:

A New Delhi court last month ordered the liquidation of Zeitlin’s wireless firm, Independent Mobile Infrastructure Ltd., which stands accused of failing to pay about $2.4 million in supplies, services and interest to a client. The client, Unitech Power Transmission, charged that Zeitlin’s company reneged on an agreement to pay for 34 wireless towers as part of a larger deal to construct a network of 137 towers throughout India. The issue is still being litigated, with Zeitlin’s firm contesting the liquidation and saying it is financially strong; a hearing is scheduled for March.

The police in Lucknow, India, got involved in the case just after Zeitlin’s hearing and Sen. Richard Lugar, R-IN, followed up with Zeitlin about the incident. But Zeitlin denied the allegations and the charges were dropped. Very soon thereafter, the case was settled between IMIL and Shatakshi Contractors, according to settlement documents obtained by The Cable.

Zeitlin was also sued in 2007 by competitor American Tower over an incident where Zeitlin forwarded an article that contained negative information about the company to two of its biggest investors. Zeitlin admitted to using a computer program to make the email seem like it was sent by American Tower CEO James D. Taiclet, Jr.

"This was a joke that clearly fell flat," Zeitlin told the committee about the email.

But concerns about his nomination grew as rumors swirled around Washington and New York that Zeitlin was engaged in other activities that called into question his overall character and also may have included elements of identity fraud.

Specifically, one woman contacted several government offices and multiple news outlets, including The Cable, with allegations that Zeitlin had used deception to lure her into what eventually she claims was a romantic relationship. Those allegations could not be independently confirmed by The Cable. The administration official declined to comment as to whether they had been investigated as part of Zeitlin’s vetting process or afterwards.

In his letter, Zeitlin said his withdrawal was due to "personal reasons," the administration official said.

"We appreciate his willingness to serve and wish him the best of luck in the future," said White House spokesman Tommy Vietor, when contacted about the story.

Zeitlin could not be reached for comment.

Jide Zeitlin, the Obama administration’s nominee to be America’s point man for financial reform at the United Nations, has withdrawn himself from consideration for the job, an administration official tells The Cable.

Zeitlin, a former Goldman Sachs executive and telecom entrepreneur, had faced criticism for his business dealings related to Indian contractors and was also accused of identity fraud for an incident in which he admitted to sending an email to investors masked as coming from one of his competitors. Zeitlin testified before Congress that the email was a prank.

He was approved out of the Senate Foreign Relations committee in November. Just before his hearing, the Washington Post detailed some of his business dealings that have come under scrutiny. For example:

A New Delhi court last month ordered the liquidation of Zeitlin’s wireless firm, Independent Mobile Infrastructure Ltd., which stands accused of failing to pay about $2.4 million in supplies, services and interest to a client. The client, Unitech Power Transmission, charged that Zeitlin’s company reneged on an agreement to pay for 34 wireless towers as part of a larger deal to construct a network of 137 towers throughout India. The issue is still being litigated, with Zeitlin’s firm contesting the liquidation and saying it is financially strong; a hearing is scheduled for March.

The police in Lucknow, India, got involved in the case just after Zeitlin’s hearing and Sen. Richard Lugar, R-IN, followed up with Zeitlin about the incident. But Zeitlin denied the allegations and the charges were dropped. Very soon thereafter, the case was settled between IMIL and Shatakshi Contractors, according to settlement documents obtained by The Cable.

Zeitlin was also sued in 2007 by competitor American Tower over an incident where Zeitlin forwarded an article that contained negative information about the company to two of its biggest investors. Zeitlin admitted to using a computer program to make the email seem like it was sent by American Tower CEO James D. Taiclet, Jr.

"This was a joke that clearly fell flat," Zeitlin told the committee about the email.

But concerns about his nomination grew as rumors swirled around Washington and New York that Zeitlin was engaged in other activities that called into question his overall character and also may have included elements of identity fraud.

Specifically, one woman contacted several government offices and multiple news outlets, including The Cable, with allegations that Zeitlin had used deception to lure her into what eventually she claims was a romantic relationship. Those allegations could not be independently confirmed by The Cable. The administration official declined to comment as to whether they had been investigated as part of Zeitlin’s vetting process or afterwards.

In his letter, Zeitlin said his withdrawal was due to "personal reasons," the administration official said.

"We appreciate his willingness to serve and wish him the best of luck in the future," said White House spokesman Tommy Vietor, when contacted about the story.

Zeitlin could not be reached for comment.

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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