McAL chief: Probe them
by Stacey RussellINVESTIGATE because someone ought to be booked!This call came yesterday from Gerry Brooks, group chief operating officer of Trinidad and Tobago-based Ansa McAL regarding the financial debacle of both CL Financial and Stanford’s Antigua Bank.He was the featured speaker at the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s 184th annual general meeting at Hilton Barbados where he contended that the Caribbean’s financial reporting and oversight “has failed us badly”. “Two recent failures, one in Antigua and the other Pan Caribbean conglomerate have left a $15 billion trail of red ink across the region. . . . yet one is yet to see a harmonised, regional, integrated, deliberate response to either of these events as even the most vulnerable citizens and institutions have lost their pensions and investments.“It is my view that the Caribbean and CARICOM must undertake a comprehensive assessment of both issues. Additionally, a forensic analysis needs to be conducted; where is Mr [Bernard] Madoff today, where is Mr [Allen] Stanford?” he declared.Madoff a former stock broker, investment advisor and non-executive chairman of the NASDAQ stock market in New York, who pulled off the largest Ponzi scheme in United States’ history was jailed last June for 150 years, while the US Securities and Exchange Commission filed civil charges against Stanford for what they called fraud “of shocking magnitude” in selling $9.2 billion in securities, “promising . . . improbable high interest rates”, in which Stanford’s Antigua Bank was implicated.On January 30, 2009 the T&T Government announced a bail-out package for T&T-headquartered CL Financial that has financial tentacles throughout the Caribbean.CLICO (Barbados) Holdings Ltd, one of its subsidiaries, has since had a run on the company.“Not a single individual has been brought to book by any Caribbean agency. There needs to be put in place a coordinated, comprehensive response. Much more can and needs to be done,” Brooks stressed.The attorney-at-law said the revamping of the Caribbean’s financial regulatory system was a prerequisite for building solid Caribbean companies and suggested that the region took a page from the book of governments and institutions within the European Union that were “working industriously to backstop institutional failures in Greece, Portugal and Spain.” “One major banker indicated to me that he deals with 15 different regional regulators, many of whom have different reporting requirements and timelines,” he added, noting that this did not offer real protection to policyholders.