“Are you going to liquidate a company worth $40 billion to get $15 billion,” he asked in relation to a petition Government has lodged in the High Court to wind up CL Financial.
The petition, Finance Minister Colm Imbert said, is to obtain from CLF, all funds owed to taxpayers.
“The funds owed by Clico to the Governmen, and by extension taxpayers,” Imbert said, “are already the subject of a court-approved resolution plan.” He said the taxpayers bailout of CLF was over $23 billion, not including legal costs or consultancy fees or all contingent liabilities.
About $7.5 billion has already been recovered, Imbert said, and the remaining debt is in excess of $15 billion.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s estimate of $27 billion given in another forum, Imbert said, “takes into account all of the costs incurred and all estimated contingent liabilities and would be over $23 billion.
Speaking on behalf of DALCO, CLF largest shareholder, and the United Shareholders Limited representing CLF shareholders, yesterday at a joint press conference with the Clico Policyholders Group at One Woodbrook Place, Reis said, he understood that the petition was served but shareholders have not gotten a copy. “All we know is what we saw in the newspaper. At this time we are seeking legal advice. We have requested a copy of the petition,” he said.
Expressing gratitude for Government’s move in bailing out CL Financial and Clico, Reis said, “We believe we are in a position right now to repay the debt. We want to pay.” Clico Policyholders’ Group chairman Peter Purmell said the shareholders have joined forces with them to oppose Government’s plan “to liquidate CL Financial and ultimately Clico.” Reis said that shareholders has tried to negotiate with Government, made “numerous attempts” since 2013 to now, but was never acknowledged. “We have been oppressed by the government,” he said.
“I don’t think these guys intend to hand back the company,” he added.
Wanting to get back the company, he said, “We want to get in the driver’s seat. We have plans on how to stimulate the company, and we could create jobs and help to develop Trinidad and Tobago’s economy in this depressed state.”
GOVT LIKE A CANCER
Claiming that the shareholders have been ignored by Government, he said, over the last eight years Government has converted CL Financial and Clico into a State enterprise.
They have been running “their affairs and doing what they want inside of there” and at this stage they do not want to let go of CLF and Clico.
“They are like a cancer in it. We want them out,” he said. Calling on Government directors to resign with immediate effect, he said, shareholders want to negotiate with Government and to share its rebirth plan. A lot of people want to invest in Trinidad and Tobago, he said, but with Govermment making a move like a “gangster” to take control of a financial conglomerate would not be encouraging.
The manner of the removal of CLF shareholders director and managing director, he said, was illegal.
“The government did not build this empire so they can shake it down,” he said. “We made a commitment to policy holders that when we get back there everyone is going to be paid.” He said that the payment of policy holders was not so much a problem.
“It is only when the Government came in, that problem started,” he said. Asked about the role Lawrence Duprey, the single largest shareholder would play in the company if it goes back to shareholders, Reis said, Duprey has apologised for what occurred and looks forward to advising a new management team.
Duprey, now in his 80s, he said, will not be in the forefront. “Nobody understands the group as he does. He built the empire,” he said.
NO NEED TO LIQUIDATE
Meanwhile, Peter Permell, Chairman of the Clico Policyholders Group questioned why Government would want to trigger a liquidation when shareholders want to pay. Policyholders views the move to liquidatation, he said, “as an unfortunate and unnecessary act of desperation, which comes as no surprise to our group, and more importantly is not in the best interest of taxpayers, policy holders, employees, and shareholders of CL Financial and Clico.” As any such move would only benefit the liquidator, lawyers, and big businesses who are already “salivating” at the thought of getting their hands on CLF assets, he said.
A subset of this group, he said, are party financiers who would have financed the campaign of the current administration.
He said the petition will fail because Government is not a direct creditor of CL Financial, the company was not insolvent, and it has sufficient assets to settle all outstanding debts among other reasons.
Claiming that CLF has been solvent since 2013, yet, he said, there was no audited financial statements for the company. “So CL Financial has been shrouded in secrecy all these years.” The petition, he said, “is a scare tactic to precipitate certain actions on the part of CL Financial stakeholders.” Any liquidation, he said, can be equated to a fire sale in which goods are sold for significant discounts.
Questioning whether there is a hidden agenda for the liquidation of a solvent company, Purmell said, “Even Mrs Kamla Persad Bissessar (former prime minister) in the Parliament had said “No fire sale! We are not going the route of liquidation because that would mean a fire sale.”