ALBANY — GOP state attorney general candidate Keith Wofford represented a so-called vulture hedge fund that critics accused of trying to capitalize on the Puerto Rico financial crisis.
Wofford, co-managing partner of Ropes & Gray’s New York office, personally represented Knighthead Capital Management, a hedge fund that held some of the bonds of debt-plagued Puerto Rico.
Facing default on its $73 billion debt, the tiny island in early 2017 sought to restructure and reduce its debt through a process similar to declaring bankruptcy. It’s bondholders, including Knighthead Capital, filed lawsuits to protect their investments.
Knighthead Capital in 2017 also pushed a plan after Hurricane Maria devastated the island and destroyed its power utility that critics said sought to protect the bondholders more than help the island recover.
A restructuring agreement for the Puerto Rico utility debt was ultimately reached between the bondholders, including Knighthead, Puerto Rico’s oversight board, government and utility.
Wofford’s involvement with Knighthead is just one of several his Democratic opponent Letitia James referenced during a debate between the two Tuesday night.
James, the city public advocate, repeatedly accused Wofford of representing powerful interests that as attorney general he might need to investigate.
“Keith Wofford is a walking conflict of interest,” James spokesman Jack Sterne said. “He’s spent his career defending powerful corporations, while Tish James spent hers defending powerless individuals. Who is Mr. Wofford running to represent? New Yorkers or big businesses?”
Wofford spokeswoman, Andrea Bozek shot back that Wofford having grown up in a poor section of Buffalo and his subsequent 25 years of legal experience makes him more qualified for the job than James, who she accused of having done “nothing for black families who lost their properties in Brooklyn.”
“Clients hire him because he gets results,” Bozen said. “New Yorkers deserve a lawyer with experience in tough cases against tough opposition, not someone who brings ‘showboat’ suits that get thrown out of court the second a real judge reads them.”