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Former microfinancier Unitus issues vague statement on closure

The local microfinance firm Unitus, which abruptly closed up shop and laid off its employees this summer after coming into a financial windfall, has issued a long-awaited statement that it had promised would explain its actions.

It is a statement, but not that explanatory — either on why the organization closed so suddenly and what they intend to do with profits some individuals earned on an investment that was supposed to be about helping the poor.

Maybe that’s why they issued it today, a month later than promised, since people are frantically focused on the holidays and unlikely to pay much attention to anything else. Am I being cynical? Sorry about that.

As Clay Holtzman of the Puget Sound Business Journal notes today in his column Unitus Board: Still Weighing Options, the statement lacks answers to some of the more disturbing questions about personal gain at Unitus and, almost half a year later, still doesn’t even really explain why they urgently decided to close/reorganize:

Five months after abruptly announcing plans to shut down and reorganize their Seattle-based microcredit charity, the four founding board members behind Unitus are still determining their next step.
Clay’s story is the best summary out right now, so read that and some of his earlier detailed posts on the Unitus transformation. He and Kristi Heim of the Seattle Times (who is on vacation right now), have done an excellent job of covering this story and trying to puzzle out what’s going on at Unitus.
Here are some of my earlier posts not focused so much on Unitus as it is on the overall crisis in microfinance, which stems from a concern it is becoming a get-rich scheme for some rather than an anti-poverty scheme as originally devised by Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus.
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About Author

Tom Paulson

Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom[at]humanosphere.org or follow him on Twitter @tompaulson.