December 3, 2022

Some folks do have all the luck

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Lottery-740By David Walker From Caribbean360

SCARBOROUGH, Tobago, Thursday August 14, 2014 – In my early days of work, I had a colleague who was fond of saying “if it wasn’t for bad luck, I would have no luck at all”. Most of us have experienced times when my colleague’s words appear to have more than just a ring of truth. But does the opposite apply? Are there times or persons for which everything works out as well as we could anticipate or hope for?

The answer surely, for most persons, is yes. We can all recall golden periods when life was wonderful. It could take a host of forms, not just monetary. It could be marriage, the birth of a child, recovery from illness or unexpected gain of significant income.

I was reminded of this with the announcement of the large lottery win in the last week. I do not know the recipient’s other circumstances, but surely they will not be made any worse by the receipt of those funds. For one person at least good fortune is the order of the day. Thousands of other people wished they could have been the target of such good luck.

Surely, this must be the luckiest person alive in Trinidad and Tobago, if financial worth is to be the criterion.

But you would be wrong. There are two individuals whose good fortune stretches way beyond that of the lottery winner. Yet so little has been heard of them, or their good fortune. I shall refer to them as Gerald and Carolyn.

Imagine that you are given several billion dollars of taxpayer money to spend pretty much as you please. OK, you are supposed to report quarterly on how you used all this money, but there is no prescribed format for those reports, and furthermore, there is no scrutiny of those reports, far less any prescribed action by any person or agency if the reports should be deemed unacceptable.

On top of that, you get all the assets owned by one of the country’s largest corporations to do with as you wish. You can dispose of assets to whoever you choose, at whatever price you determine, and not a damn dog dare bark. The legislation says that you MUST first obtain an independent valuation but you are free to disregard that.

You were given the task of saving the company and defending the interests of its depositors and creditors, as the Central Bank Act clearly states.

Yet you can and do disregard the need for such valuations with impunity.

Requests for copies of the valuations, as with so much other information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) have simply been ignored.

You spend lavishly on an executive box at Queen’s Park Oval and on other unnecessary items at your discretion. You do this while grandmothers and great grandmothers who trusted you are driven out of their homes. Of course, you never willingly disclose your excesses and refuse to explain those that make their way into the public domain.

You destroy what was previously the largest financial conglomerate in the Caribbean despite the fact that you now say that asset values are sufficient to cover all debts. This disastrously exacerbates the very contagion you were supposed to contain, going diametrically opposed to your mandate. It also significantly weakens the local financial services market by depriving it of a major player and reducing already weak competition.

You find ways of paying policyholders, even under the reduced terms of your plan by constructing perverse payment mechanisms that divert large percentages away from the supposed recipients into the hands of financial intermediaries. By way of example, redemptions of bonds at a guaranteed 80% rate was as a result of an agreement with selected financial institutions.

Requests under FOIA for sight of the agreement and details of benefiting institutions have been ignored.

How is all of this possible you ask? Is it not all illegal? Of course it is. That is why the Central Bank Amendment Act was necessary. It is a shield against any and all legal action by any and all persons, in any and every jurisdiction. So draconian is it that it even blocks pursuit of actions already won in court. The sole purpose of the Central Bank Amendment Act is to block legal oversight of the use of billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money by Gerald and Carolyn. I urge every citizen to read and digest it, even at this late hour. You can find its provisions incorporated into the Central Bank Act at Pay special attention to Section 44E starting at page 38.

I have given just a few examples of how Gerald and Carolyn are free to use taxpayer funds and major corporate assets at their absolute discretion with no oversight or sanction whatsoever, not from Parliament, not the Courts, not the Regulator (who runs the company and appointed Gerald and Carolyn).

Lucky people indeed.

There have been no accounts worthy of the name. There has been token quarterly reporting as demanded by the Act. There has been no review of, or action upon those reports. There has been an abject lack of competence as demonstrated by the wildly fluctuating costs given over the last four years for the rescue. There had been no disclosure of who was paid as demanded by the Prime Minister in her speech on the matter in October, 2012.

Gerald and Carolyn appear able to thumb their noses even at our Prime Minister. Not even the Attorney General is able to direct their activities.

He gave very clear instructions that they were to provide every assistance to the police conducting their criminal investigations into activities at the company. Remarkably, such was their failure to comply that the Fraud Squad had to execute a raid on the company in order to obtain documents of interest to them. Yet not a word is heard from either the Prime Minister or the Attorney General

By now you probably agree that Gerald and Carolyn are indeed two very lucky people. Not in their wildest dreams could most people imagine having access to tens of billions of taxpayer dollars and company assets for use as the recipient deems fit, with no oversight and total protection from the courts granted graciously by our Parliament.

Who are Gerald and Carolyn to deserve such good fortune? What special skills do they possess? How were they selected? The answer is that we simply do not know. We know that they did not have to purchase a ticket and wait in hope. We do not know the criteria by which they were selected.

There were no advertisements for the positions. There certainly was no aspect of the appointments that was made public.

On top of all of that, you should note that the appointments were made by the Central Bank. You should be aware that the Central Bank is outside the scope of FOIA. By this means a further layer of secrecy is added to the immunity granted to authorities in the disbursement and expenditure of billions of dollars of public money.

The picture is alarming. In a very real sense, this is the largest procurement ever undertaken by a government. We set out to procure the containment of contagion risk in the economy, and protection of creditors and depositors. By ignoring essential procurement safeguards, indeed totally ignoring best practice, Parliament has enabled Gerald and Carolyn to spend more than 20 billion on a 7 billion dollar problem, with no explanation offered to us, the taxpayers. We have shown the world that we have only a passing respect for our laws generally and our Constitution in particular.

There is one last irony (comic relief perhaps) that I will share with you.

I have demonstrated the extent of the legal protections afforded to Gerald and Carolyn. Even if I had conclusive proof tomorrow that they have acted in a criminal manner, they remain immune from the courts. There is nothing they can do that could be prosecuted. They have unlimited licence in the use of our money.

david-walker-150It borders on the hysterical therefore that Gerald and Carolyn should issue pre action protocol letters to me complaining about what I write. That has been their only reaction to my critical appraisal of their roles. Maybe they will be foolish enough to afford me my day (and theirs) in court.

Some folks do have all the luck.

David Walker is a corporate finance consultant. He is adviser to several CLICO clients. He also writes regularly on matters of the economy in the local media. He can be reached at [email protected] His blog is at

IMAGE: Lottery-740

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