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ONLY HUMAN: Parris’ only way out is the truth


marciadottin, [email protected]

ONLY HUMAN: Parris’ only way out is the truth

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LEROY PARRIS rose from humble, rural origins and through a disciplined work ethic, sharp business acumen and a commitment to service, transformed Colonial Life Insurance from a small player in the Barbados market 30-plus years ago, to the monolith that was CLICO Barbados Holdings before it crashed in 2009.  
Parris’ uncompromising standards for agents’ training, product knowledge and deportment were legendary, and this made his company’s representatives among the most competitive and successful in the business. Consequently, he prospered.
That said, though, and based on the revelations of the forensic audit on CLICO International Life Insurance (CIL) by Deloitte Canada, Parris has a lot of explaining to do. He needs to say why certain transfers of funds and payments were made. Was CIL regarded as a cash cow to finance other ventures? And was this an ethical thing to do, given it was people’s life savings in most cases?
This is extremely relevant as last Friday at the ongoing Commission of Enquiry into the collapse of CL Financial and the Hindu Credit Union (HCU) in Trinidad it was revealed from minutes of a September 2006 meeting that Lawrence Duprey, the former executive chairman of both CLICO and CL Financial, saw CLICO as a “private equity fund” which was easily accessible to finance investments for its parent company CL Financial.
As a confidant of Duprey – indeed, his protégé – and at one point a director of CL Financial, how could Parris be unaware of the financial challenges being faced by that entity?
Parris also needs to tell Barbadians and the thousands of policyholders in the Eastern Caribbean whether the siphoning of funds from CIL to CL Financial was done on the orders of Duprey.
He needs to speak up about this to demonstrate that actions said to have been undertaken under his direction that may have contributed to the implosion of CIL were not necessarily of his doing.
Regaining respect
Parris must reveal  these things if he is ever to be able to walk with his head high again in this country, and have the respect he built from his hard work through the years.
Late Prime Minister David Thompson may not be with us, but someone needs to explain the circumstances surrounding the payment for $3.333 million to Thompson & Associates on January 16, 2009, which according to the audit was “actually to the benefit of Mr Leroy Parris . . . and related to partial payment of a ‘gratuity”.
You may recall that a few weeks after the date of this transaction for Parris, the Trinidad and Tobago government took a decision to bail out the CL Financial Group. Noteworthy, too, is that here in Barbados, Parris, along with Thompson and then Central Bank Governor Marion Williams, was calling for calm and assuring local policyholders their money was safe.
 “In Barbados, CLICO is supervised by the Supervisor of Insurance and the Ministry of Finance. We are regulated by Barbados and the Barbados government,” Parris said.
Yet a check with the Supervisor of Insurance’s office would have revealed that CLICO had not been complying with regulations as it had not been filing its financial statements in a timely fashion.
As their long-standing attorney, didn’t Thompson know this? And if he didn’t, as Minister of Finance should he not have checked on whether the company was fully complying with its statutory regulations?
One also has to question why, after Thompson belatedly set up the Oversight Committee headed by Permanent Secretary William Layne to ensure policyholders were protected, he seemingly was not himself forthright with Layne.
We say that because Layne repeatedly complained that he could not find a contract for Parris, and his Oversight Committee finished its work never seeing one.
Yet, last March when a writ was filed on Parris’ behalf in the High Court claiming $10 million from CLICO Holdings (Barbados) and CIL, and Parris’ job contract was presented as evidence of his rightful claim, the document was signed and witnessed on May 15, 2005, by Thompson, along with Duprey and current CLICO?Holdings
Barbados president Terrence Thornhill.
It is therefore fair to ask how much Thompson knew about CLICO’s collapse here? Why did he not take appropriate action in a more timely fashion to deal with the situation as he was urged to do by then Opposition Leader Mia Mottley? Furthermore, was there a conflict of interest on his part in seeking to deal with this matter knowing his intimate legal and personal relationship with Parris?
Added to that, when the Supervisor of Insurance forbade CIL to write new business, did Thompson know that his pal Parris had ignored the instruction and the company was selling policies? And if he did know, did he as Minister of Finance turn a blind eye?
Right now there are clearly more questions than answers, but the only way the once stellar reputations of these two men can be repaired is if truthful answers are provided.
    Sanka Price is the WEEKEND NATION and SATURDAY SUN editor.

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