On Friday 30th January 2009, the CL Financial (CLF) bailout started, so today – 30th January 2019 – is the ten-year anniversary of that fateful decision to commit Public Money to bailout the Caribbean’s largest conglomerate. The companies which were to be bailed-out were: CL Financial Ltd (CLF); Colonial Life Insurance Company Ltd (CLICO); Caribbean Money Market Brokers Ltd (CMMB); Clico Investment Bank (CIB) and British American Insurance Company (Trinidad) Ltd (BAICO).
The mismanagement of this bailout has exceeded any mismanagement which led to the collapse of CLF, that is my view.
The bailout proceeded between 30th January 2009 and 12th June 2009, with over $5.0 Billion in Public Money paid to CLF in that period, under the terms of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between then Finance Minister, Karen Nunez-Tesheira, and Lawrence Duprey, then CLF’s Executive Chairman. That MoU governed the expenditure of this vast sum of Public Money before the 12th June signing of the CLF Shareholders’ Agreement. All of which calls into question the continued claims, in relation to the Tobago Sandals project, that MoU’s are non-binding. As we say here, is according.
There has been an incredible escalation in the cost of this bailout, from the initial estimate of $5.0 Billion, to the present expenditure exceeding $25.0 Billion. This has been a source of serious concern as priority was given to pay the claims of the CLF creditors over other urgent, public needs.
In my previous article, Camille Robinson-Regis was incorrectly named as a member of Cabinet in January 2009, when she was in fact serving at that time as our High Commissioner to Canada.
The voices of our leading Artists urge us to search for meaning, if we are serious about building a civilisation out of the lies and ruin we inhabit. That kind of serious building requires a solid foundation which must contain sober reflection and acceptance of responsibility by both the people and the leaders. This is the Season of Reflection, so this week I am looking backward to go forward. A Sankofa pause to delve into these sobering CL Financial events to try to derive some meaning. We have now passed Emancipation, so the series is moving onward to Independence.
In this article I will examine the positions taken by various leaders as the CLF crisis gathered force, culminating in the declaration of the bailout on 30 January 2009. There is either a sobering naivete or a lack of rectitude in the highest chambers in our Republic.
The main persons dealing with the crisis were the Cabinet, the CLF Chiefs and the Central Bank. The former Cabinet members from whom we need to hear are – Colm Imbert, who is the current Minister of Finance; Mariano Browne, then Minister in the Ministry of Finance; Conrad Enill, former Minister of Finance and Chairman of the PNM; Karen Nunez-Tesheira, then Minister of Finance. Continue reading “CL Financial bailout – Charting the Ruins”→
“…The official also pointed out that no interest was ever charged on the amount of money that was loaned to the CLF group…”
—Quote from an anonymous ‘Government official’ in this newspaper on 21 July 2017.
A bold-faced snatch-and-grab is now being attempted and our total vigilance is now required. According to the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ protestors I saw at Zuccotti Park in 2012 –
‘If you are not Outraged, You haven’t been paying attention!’
Last week I spoke to the epic legal mangle which was about to engulf us all in relation to the CL Financial bailout fiasco. It is important to know that it does not matter if you had an investment in CLF or were a shareholder. It does not matter at all. This issue is so huge that every citizen has skin in the game. That includes the unborn ones and those CARICOM citizens who are not citizens of T&T. Continue reading “CL Financial bailout – the Tangled Web”→
The CL Financial bailout fiasco is headed towards an epic legal mangle as Lawrence Duprey and his cohort aim to regain control of the Caribbean’s largest-ever commercial/financial group. In swift response, the Minister of Finance is making legal moves to put CLF into liquidation.
At the root of this dispute is the actual sum of Public Money spent on this immense bailout and when, or if ever, it is to be repaid. I have been involved in extended litigation to get the details of the bailout from the Ministry of Finance and the High Court ruled in my favour in July 2015, with that result now being contested in the Appeal Court.
This is my 17 July 2017 ‘Morning Brew’ interview with CNC3’s Hema Ramkissoon on the continuing drama that is the CL Financial bailout. The “chess game” for control is active at this moment, but the propriety of a wholesale return of the group to those chiefs who brought the company to its knees in the first place is still to be debated. Video courtesy of CNC3 Television.
Programme Date: 17 July 2017 Programme Length: 00:26:14
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:
nobody has been convicted of, or even charged with, any criminal act, and that
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”→
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.
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”→
This 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