CL Financial bailout – Fit and Proper action

I: #tobepooristhecrime


SIDEBAR: Representation Riddle?

Several media reports of the Carlos John vs Lawrence Duprey lawsuit named one of Duprey’s lawyers as Michael Coppin. According to the ttparliament.org website, E Michael Coppin is a Government Senator, appointed on September 23rd 2015, at the start of the 11th Republican Parliament. Coppin is also Chairman of the PNM’s Heliconia Foundation.

rowley and coppin
Michael Coppin is on Dr Rowley’s left, the smiling, tieless chap in the blue jacket. Photo courtesy Lime.tt

I do not think that any law or rule was broken by Mr. Coppin representing Mr. Duprey in that Court case, but my feeling about that situation is one of deep unease. It seems to me that there is a likely conflict between Mr. Coppin’s sworn duties to represent the public interest as one of our Parliamentarians and his equally serious duty to wholeheartedly represent Duprey in that litigation, given the serious negotiations between the government and Duprey.

Of course we do not pay our Parliamentarians to attend to their public duties on a full-time basis, so they are allowed to continue with their professional lives. That potential for conflict and the real needs of proper governance by our Parliamentarians speaks to the strong case for full-time terms of engagement to be agreed so that no other employment is allowed. This proposal was raised by Dr. Rowley during the 2015 election campaign and it should be pursued in my view.

That opening stanza is my tweet of a witty friend’s remark at Ferdie Ferreira’s booklaunch and 85th Birthday celebrations on Wednesday 14 June 2017. It was not surprising to see Lawrence Duprey and Carlos John sitting together at that event. We may be seeing Duprey more and more, the way this fiasco is unfolding. There were some media reports that John was suing Duprey for some money owed, but the case now appears to have been resolved by agreement. I took little note of that case, except for one aspect, explained in the sidebar.

By now, we know that Duprey intends to regain control of the CL Financial empire which was bailed-out by the State after its failure in January 2009. There have been reports about Duprey’s legal demands that the State remove its Directors from the CL Financial board, with the State having asked for more time to respond. That contest for control of CLF is not the topic of this article, I am concerned here with the apparent failure and/or refusal of the Central Bank to apply its fit and proper regulations to the CL Financial chiefs.

Two criticisms of my position on the fit and proper regulations are that:

  1. nobody has been convicted of, or even charged with, any criminal act, and that
  2. I am placing too much reliance on the words of various politicians.

I actually base the fit and proper case against Duprey and the other CLF chiefs in the CLF letter of 13 January 2009 to the then Minister of Finance, Karen Nunez-Tesheira. That letter, signed by Duprey as CLF’s Executive Chairman, admitted that the group had failed and requested ‘urgent liquidity support’ from the Central Bank, as ‘lender of last resort’. CLF owned and controlled three banks – Barbados National Bank, Clico Investment Bank and Republic Bank – yet was forced into in an illiquid situation. Just imagine that. Continue reading “CL Financial bailout – Fit and Proper action”

TSTT Matters – How the MASSY-TSTT Merger Affects Us

I: Transparency issues

TSTT’s share purchase agreement, announced on 2 May 2017, to buy Massy Communications Ltd has provoked a great deal of sceptical or negative public comment. I will not attempt a critique of that deal since it is well beyond my scope: in any case, the basic details have not been disclosed. We have been told that the price is $255M and that the deal is conditional upon the approval of the Telecommunications Authority of T&T (TATT).

The furore over this huge deal seems to be fueled by these three statements emerging from TSTT –

  1. Transparency – TSTT cannot reveal the details of the deal to the Parliament’s Public Accounts Enterprises Committee (PAEC) since it is not obliged to follow either the Integrity in Public Life Act or the Freedom of Information Act. Further, TSTT is required, as a listed entity, to follow the provisions of the 2012 Securities Act in regard to the secrecy of pending transactions. What is more, TSTT and Massy Communications Ltd are both bound by a Non-Disclosure Agreement.
  2. Accountability – The $255M purchase price is funded by $1.9Bn which TSTT raised from private lenders, so that money is presumed to be outside the definition of Public Money. One assumes, from the tone of those statements, that TSTT did not require a guarantee or letter of comfort from the State.
  3. Good Governance – TSTT stated that the first time the Cabinet would have been aware of this transaction is via the press. This returns to the issue of just where is the lawful and proper boundary between the Cabinet and the various State Enterprises for which it is responsible. This again sparks the debate as to whether TSTT is really a State Enterprise.

The second and third points will be covered in the next section. Continue reading “TSTT Matters – How the MASSY-TSTT Merger Affects Us”

CL Financial bailout – Marooning the Pirates

wilson-king-symmetry
The Wilson-King Congruence.  Graphic by NiCam Graphics.

Recent events have forced a further re-examination of the proposition that Lawrence Duprey and his chiefs could regain control of the CL Financial group. The Public Interest has been betrayed or badly delayed at every stage of this matter, which is the only reason we are forced to have this painful conversation.

papersIn the BG of 27th April 2017, both Anthony Wilson and Mary King took aim at my assertion that Lawrence Duprey and his chiefs should not be allowed to regain control of the CL Financial group. Last week I responded to them, but subsequent statements from the CLF chiefs show that regaining control of the entire group is the target. Those events include the abortive meeting between Lawrence Duprey and the CLICO Policyholders’ Group, led by Peter Permell; the several press statements from Duprey and his spokesmen, Carlton Reis and Claudius Dacon and the Mid-Year Budget Review from Finance Minister, Colm Imbert.

Despite the apparent agreement between Wilson and I on the scope of the fit and proper rules, that is just academic, since the CLF chiefs seem to want to regain all their former positions. Continue reading “CL Financial bailout – Marooning the Pirates”

CL Financial bailout – the endgame

Lawrence Duprey and the other CL Financial chiefs could soon be regaining their positions, which is a public concern at this time. I consider that to be an unacceptable prospect and that was stated in my joint open letter to the Central Bank Governor on 31 January 2017. Both Anthony Wilson and Mary King took issue with those views of mine in the Business Guardian of 27 April 2017.

The arguments coming from Wilson and King emphasise Duprey’s property rights as the major shareholder of CLF. Wilson, who is the Business Guardian editor, appears to agree with me that the CLF chiefs could not satisfy the central bank’s ‘fit and proper’ rules which apply to those who direct, manage and hold controlling shareholdings in financial institutions. He also made the important point that there are companies in CLF which are not financial institutions and therefore Duprey ought to be able to regain control of those, provided the bailout sums are recovered. The main non-financial companies in the CLF group are Home Construction Ltd., Angostura, CL World Brands and CL Marine. I am still unclear, from Mary King’s article, whether she holds the view that the CLF chiefs are still fit and proper persons. Continue reading “CL Financial bailout – the endgame”

AUDIO: Interview on the return of the CL Financial chief

power102fmThis is an interview on the issue of Lawrence Duprey regaining control of CL Financial…Richard Noray and I were interviewed by Andy Johnson on ‘Impact TT’ on Sunday 30th April 2017 on Power 102.1 FM. Audio courtesy Power 102.1 FM.

Programme Date: 30 April 2017
Programme Length: 00:33:14

Property Tax Setbacks

property-tax-logo
devant-anandThe High Court issued a ruIing by Justice Frank Seepersad on Friday 19 May 2017 that the Valuation Return Forms (VRFs) which property owners had been required to complete for the implementation of the Property Tax was to be subject to a “….stay of the implementation and/or enforcement…”. That stay is pending the full hearings of the judicial review case brought by former AG, Anand Ramlogan SC, on behalf of former PP Minister, Devant Maharaj. The State has already filed an appeal and that is to be heard at the Appeal Court on Monday 22nd May 2017.

This important national policy is now before the Courts for determination as to the legality of its implementation at this time. To be sure, there are sharp political rivalries at stake here and heavy questions of how do we attain good public administration. Continue reading “Property Tax Setbacks”