CL Financial Bailout – Retirement Planning

When you consider increasing lifespans, inflation and the greater likelihood of major medical expenses as one ages, it is clear that proper retirement planning should be a major factor for most people.

Some extracts from relevant advertisements to start off –

Company A

“Maintain your lifestyle – even after retirement…”

The time passed so fast and now you cannot imagine life without the luxuries you have come to know, the luxuries you deserve. The Company A annuities and pension plans allow you to live the lifestyle that you have become accustomed to – even after you’ve retired – without sacrifices that will affect your current quality of life.

Company B

“I WANT TO RETIRE COMFORTABLY”

It can be daunting to consider how much money it takes to retire in comfort. And government pensions do not provide the guarantees that they once did. But it’s never too late – or too early – to get started.

Company C

“At the rate things change today, long-term financial planning has become a concern for all of us.”

The responsibility for securing a comfortable retirement continues to shift from employers to the individual. Whether your goal is saving for retirement or you’ve already reached that goal and you want to be sure that you will never outlive your savings, an annuity may be just what you’re looking for. In Trinidad & Tobago as in the wider world, life expectancy has lengthened considerably with people living well past their retirement age. This introduces a new risk – outliving your savings.

Company C’s preferred plan features “…guaranteed income for the rest of your life…

Yes, Retirement Planning is an essential part of any good investment planning.

Central to the growth and long-term success of the CL Financial group was its ability to mobilise the retirement savings of the Caribbean people in pursuance of its wider commercial objectives.  I have been writing on how it all went wrong and who is to blame.

In preparing my submissions for the Colman Commission it occurred to me that the financial provisions made for the 3 CL Financial chiefs who departed in the last 12 months before the group collapsed is central to understanding the entire fiasco.  It is rich in irony.

Fiduciary Duty of Directors and Officers

The burning questions are –

  1. When did the Directors and Officers of CL Financial (CLF) know that the group was heading to collapse?
  2. When did the Directors and Officers of the failed subsidiaries know?
  3. What did they know and when did they know it?
  4. How much warning did their management controls give them?

The questions are pertinent and the time-line is instructive –

Timeline to CLICO Bailout

  • 31 March 2008 – Andre Monteil retires as CLF’s Group Finance Director.
  • 6 August 2008 – Anthony Fifi retires as Managing Director of the Home Construction Limited (HCL) group, which is wholly-owned by CLF.  Fifi remained on the board of the parent company, CL Financial.
  • Mid-October 2008 – CLF purchases Jamaica Money Market Brokers’ 45% shareholding in CMMB.  Please note that CLF owns 40% of JMMB.
  • 7 November 2008 – Michael Carballo, CLF’s Group Finance Director gives an interview to the Business Guardian that the group had assets of $100Bn and could weather any storm.
  • 18th November 2008 – CLF 2007 Annual Report is published – its Consolidated Balance Sheet disclosed a Total Asset Value of $100.666Bn.
  • 8 December 2008 – Robert Mayers proceeds on pre-retirement leave from his position as Managing Director of CMMB, pending his scheduled retirement, on 28th February 2009, as Managing Director.
  • 13 January 2009 – Lawrence Duprey, CLF’s Executive Chairman, writes, detailing an asset value of $23.9Bn, to the Governor of the Central Bank to seek urgent financial assistance.  See ‘Finding the Assets‘ published on 23 August 2009 for the text of that letter.
  • 16 January 2009 – CLF pays a dividend of $3.00 per share.
  • 23 January 2009 – CLF has its final and fateful Annual General Meeting at Trinidad Hilton.
  • 30 January 2009 – The bailout is announced at a Press Conference at the Central Bank.

What benefits did the departing Directors and Officers enjoy?  Three of the most important and senior CLF chiefs departed in the 12 months prior to the collapse.  To be fair, Fifi was retiring from HCL, which has not been described as a failed company, despite its challenges.  To understand the picture properly it will be necessary for the Colman Commission to examine the terms of the retirement of these CL Financial chiefs.

Those departures must be examined from the documents if they were to be approached from the compensation aspect.  What I mean is that these chiefs would have been paid upon departure and that would likely have been documented.

The suggested line of enquiry is –

  • How much did Messrs. Monteil/Fifi/Mayers receive upon retirement?  Does anyone believe that these chiefs left without compensation after years of service, at the highest possible level?  The amounts actually received and the bases on which those sums were calculated promises to be very interesting.
  • How were those retirement payments calculated? – Were the amounts arrived at by a ‘set’ formula?  Was that formula specified in their employment contracts?
  • Were those sums reduced to reflect the impending crash? – That alternative is the crux of the issue, coming to the point of what did they know and when.   If the sums were reduced to reflect the poor performance of those failed companies, we need to question the misleading accounts given as to the group’s health right up to the very brink of the collapse.
  • Shifts in asset values – I am also wondering if the sudden drop in asset values from $100Bn + to just under $24Bn, in the space of less than 2 months is part of this aspect of the story.  Only when we have those employment contracts published will we be able to consider whether there was any connection between the chiefs’ compensation formula and the asset values or, to put it another way, their departures and the sudden drop in asset values.
  • Performance-related? – Ultimately, we have to wonder as to the implications of the other alternative.  If we learn that these CL Financial chiefs were able to depart the failing group with no reduction in their retirement payments, that would be very serious indeed.  If that were the case, we would be contemplating employment contracts which divorced pay from performance.  Given contemporary norms that link pay and performance, that would be an appalling vista.  We would be seeing that our region’s largest investment group was saddled with a leadership which had constructed for itself the ultimate high-return, no-risk employment and retirement benefits, all at the expense of everyone else.  The ultimate irony.

I am fully expecting that there will be further legal arguments to silence or shroud any efforts by the Colman Commission to delve into this aspect of things.  Colman must be robust in his probe – he must follow the money.

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4 thoughts on “CL Financial Bailout – Retirement Planning

    1. Great question, Neil,

      I think the fact that Fifi was kept on as a Director of the Parent Company – CLF – lends the lie to the ‘talk’ that he was somehow forced-out…in addition, if you check the link in the story, you will see that Duprey spoke fulsomely at his retirement function, something which is not reported for either Monteil or Mayers.

      We will know when they are cross-examined.

      Thanks for joining-in again.

      Afra

  1. It should also be noted that Monteil received what can be interpreted as a preferential price for his CLF shares. Any other CLF shareholder would be offered $2 – $6 dollars per share for their holdings citing that CLF is a private company, the shares are not listed, etc and also (and this is verbal) that this miniscule price is what the accountants value the shares at. Monteil’s shares were valued at approx. $231.27 each. Why?

  2. As reported in the BG on October 14 2010, Duprey’s 2007 remuneration was put at US$20.5 million (made up of bonus, commission, consulting fee, dividend and salary) and one can perhaps presume that his 2008 package was just as large. It was reported elsewhere that Gita Sakal’s annual remuneration was reportedly a basic salary of TT$3.4 million plus a automatic bonus of TT$12.6 million. I would hazard a guess that Monteil and Fifi may have been receiving an annual package of between US$5 million and US$15 million.

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