No promises to policyholders
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – The Commission of Inquiry into the collapse of two financial institutions in Trinidad, including the Colonial Life Insurance Company (CLICO) began here today with the sole Commissioner Sir Anthony Colman, warning that he could not recommend any compensation for persons who lost money.
“I do want it to be fully understood that whereas I do have the greatest sympathy for the many thousands of people whose pensions and investments have been exposed to destruction… that said while the inquiry will make findings and recommendations it cannot order compensation, “ said the British Queen’s Counsel.
He told the opening that even if the Commission finds that the final loss has “been due to the fault of particular individuals, companies, firms or government bodies”.
Sir Anthony said that the Commission would be fair and that its hearings open to the public.
“While I am determined that this inquiry will be conducted in utmost fairness to all concerned, I am equally determined that it will not suffer from public inquiry interminability syndrome,” he said, adding “I shall therefore demand that all cross examinations should be structured, focus and kept strictly to the point.
“There will be no wasted words and if there are, you could expect me to intervene and they will be facing the judiciary equivalent of (Michel) Holding and (Joel) Garner at both ends on a very hard wicket,” he added.
The Commission will examine the circumstances, factors, causes and reasons leading to the January 2009 intervention by the Trinidad and Tobago government of then prime minister Patrick Manning for the rehabilitation of CLICO, the CLICO Investment Bank (CIB), British American Insurance Company (Trinidad) Limited and Caribbean Money Market Brokers Limited (CMMB);
The sole Commissioner will also examine the legal and fiscal bases which informed the decision of the Manning government in January, 2009 to inject billions of dollars in those companies as well as “what policies, procedures and processes were used in the distribution of this capital or funding”.
The Terms of Reference or the Commission also allows for examining the “effectiveness or suitability of the accounting and auditing firms, the institutional, regulatory and statutory bodies with oversight responsibilities” including the Central bank of Trinidad and Tobago.
CLICO’s collapse followed the financial problems facing its parent company, the Trinidad-based regional conglomerate group, CL Financial.
Under the bailout plan for CLICO, the government said it would make an initial partial payment of a maximum of TT$75,000 (US$12.500) to depositors in the short term investment and mutual funds and those whose principal balances exceed $75,000 will be paid through a Government IOU amortised over 20 years at zero interest.
Communications and Works Minister Austin Jack Warner told reporters at the end of the weekly Cabinet meeting yesterday that payments should begin within the next two weeks.
But the government also faces a law suit from disgruntled depositors who have refused to accept the offer that was also made to the depositors of the Hindu Credit Union (HCU), the other failed company that is the subject of the Commission.
Last month the HCU filed an application in the High Court for judicial review of President George Maxwell Richards’s decision to appoint the commission.
The HCU wanted the court to declare the commission null and void, that it is an abuse of the court’s process and that it is unlawful and illegal, among other requests.
It also wanted Attorney General Ramlogan to recuse himself from matters involving the HCU.
The application suggested that there were several current criminal and civil matters before the courts involving the HCU and a Commission of Inquiry at the same time would be an abuse of process. (CMC)