By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE management of CLICO (Bahamas) and the Christie administration have been warned to resolve the savings and investments debacle no later than this month, with a prominent pastor threatening to hold an “urgent mass meeting” with policyholders if one is not reached.
Bishop Simeon Hall, pastor emeritus of New Covenant Baptist Church, said the “corporate sin” that is the CLICO (Bahamas) debacle, almost eight years since its inception, continues to have policyholders “languishing in uncertainty” as neither CLICO (Bahamas) nor government officials have indicated a possible end to the controversy.
This is notwithstanding a previous promise by CLICO (Bahamas) officials that “financial bonds” would be distributed within a “few months” after March, when a collective $16m payout was issued to victims, Bishop Hall said.
Thus, Bishop Hall said if “nothing concrete” takes place by the end of this month, he is prepared to summon CLICO (Bahamas’) former policyholders in an attempt to “channel all that energy or frustration into what we can do to get this thing to be resolved”.
In March, Prime Minister Perry Christie promised that a collective $16m cash payout would be issued to victims of the CLICO situation before the end of that month.
In announcing the payout plan during the mid-year budget debate, Mr Christie said the insolvent insurer’s executive flexible premium annuity (EPPA) holders, and surrendered pension policies, would receive a cash payment capped at $10,000.
Anything owed above that sum would be paid off via the issuance to former clients of seven-year promissory notes (government bonds), which will provide them with quarterly insurance payments at the prime rate (4.75 per cent).
Vaughn Culmer, CLICO (Bahamas) operations manager, told The Tribune in April that the issuance of government bonds would “hopefully” take place “within the next few months”.
The payout process began in March as promised, with some policyholders recovering at least some of their life savings and long-term investments, all of which were lost when the life and health insurer collapsed into insolvency in 2009.
According to Bishop Hall however, policyholders have not heard anything pertaining to the issuance of the government bonds since the March payout. Additionally, some policyholders, like Bishop Robert McPhee, still have not recovered any lost funds.
“Our call today is to call on CLICO (Bahamas) to give more information,” Bishop Hall said. “In the absence of information people make their own conclusions. The conclusions might be wrong because of a lack of information. We commend the government for bringing it so far, but this so far isn’t good enough. We are calling on CLICO and the government to let’s bring resolution to this debacle called CLICO.
“Only in the Bahamas could this have happened. Were we in the United States, all the policyholders would be financially set right now.
“This ought not to have happened under (anybody’s) watch. And people have been disadvantaged after paying years of monies into CLICO and now they’re without any returns.
“The promise of returns, the promise of this thing being ameliorated has gone too far, almost eight years, and we’re calling on them to bring resolution to this.”
Meanwhile, others, like Church of God Administrative Bishop Moses Johnson, took umbrage over losing the investment of thousands of dollars into various policies over the span of 20 years due to the insurer’s insolvency, only to receive a portion of those respective investments in compensation.
“I had my pension with them for over 10 years, and of course I had my whole family insured from a health perspective for over 20 years,” he said. “We’re talking about paying $453 for over 20 years - we’re talking about paying over $300 on a pension scheme, and we’re talking now about investing well over $100,000. And then you’re going to get a settlement for $5,000?
“I mean that’s not even one year’s payment that we would have given to CLICO.”
In April,The Tribune reported how the relief originally expressed by many CLICO policyholders at the time of the payouts had subsequently turned to frustration, as some owed in excess of $100,000 had been offered at best $10,000 in compensation.
Attorney Paul Moss, at the time, told members of the media that he was in communication with a number of the company’s former employees and policyholders, many of whom had expressed disappointment with the payments from the policies and investments.
Mr Moss said that the amount being offered to policyholders at the time did not reflect the promises made by Mr Christie.