• Former Bishop contrasts with FTX focus
• Cries: ‘We need champion of small man’
• And says: ‘Be more judicious on investors’
By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
Victims of CLICO (Bahamas) implosion have made an impassioned call to the Government not to forget their continuing plight with an estimated $35m still required to make them whole.
Bishop Simeon Hall, who was among those impacted by the life and health insurer’s 2009 insolvency, told Tribune Business that the present focus on FTX contrasts sharply with the attention paid to the financial fall-out for hundreds of Bahamians who still have to fully recover their life savings and retirement income.
Agreeing that many CLICO (Bahamas) investors, especially those who surrendered their policies, feel neglected and abandoned by society, he called for “a champion of the small man” given that the losses of expatriate millionaires and billionaires seem to take priority over those suffered by lower and middle income Bahamians.
“I think the people in authority have forgotten it. On the list of priorities CLICO might not be in the top 30. That’s how low on the list it has become because they have their hands full,” Bishop Hall, now retired, told this newspaper of the Government. “I just want to raise it again because every now and then I meet persons who say they have not got their monies; some got some of their monies, and some did not get anything at all.
“It’s been such a long time. A lady in the drug store the week before last, she was literally in tears saying that she put all her money in CLICO, is now retired and can’t get what is owed to her. I lost thousands of dollars but I got a little something back. I’ve got about two-thirds of what was owed to me. This thing with FTX has raised people’s consciousness in terms of how they give these institutions their money and then they go belly up.
“We need someone to champion the cause of the small man. I tried my best with some other pastors but we’re too passive in The Bahamas. That’s what I feel. Unlike the US, where you can sue for almost anything to get redress, it’s very difficult and expensive in The Bahamas.” Bishop Hall added that he had spoken to Michael Halkitis, minister of economic affairs, on the CLICO matter who had “said he’s working on it and would have something next [this] week”.
Neither Mr Halkitis nor Simon Wilson, the Ministry of Finance’s financial secretary, returned Tribune Business calls seeking comment before press time last night. However, the Government has been consistent across several administrations in fulfilling its pledges and guarantees to make CLICO (Bahamas) clients whole via a phased series of payments.
This newspaper understands that $2m was paid out last September, with the 2022-2023 Budget allocating some $3.8m in total for “CLICO obligations” this fiscal year. The same $3.8m is also included in the “preliminary” spending estimates for the 2023-2024 and 2024-2025 fiscal years, and it is thought that a cumulative $75m may have been paid out by the Government to-date since the first payments were made in 2016
However, while $6.629m was paid in 2020-2021, just $58,796 of the $7.4m allocated for 2021-2022 was shown as having been paid by March in the latter year. And this newspaper also understands that, while the balance of the $3.8m for this 2022-2023 fiscal year was supposed to have been paid out before Christmas, this did not happen and it is instead now scheduled to occur sometime before the June 2023 year-end.
“They’re looking to make a payment shortly,” one contact, speaking anonymously because their were not authorised to talk publicly, said of the Government and Ministry of Finance. “The country is challenged, but these people [former CLIC) Bahamas clients] are also challenged. It’s been almost 14 years. These people have to be paid, and successive governments have indicated a willingness to do so.”
Well-placed sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Tribune Business that around $10 remains to be paid out collectively to CLICO (Bahamas) clients who have surrendered their life and other insurance/investment policies. And a further $25m, via a promissory note or some other debt security, is needed to underwrite the transfer of the insolvent insurer’s remaining in-force policies to another Insurance Commission licensee.
This $25m is necessary because CLICO (Bahamas) insolvency means it does not have sufficient assets to transfer and support the liabilities associated with these in-force policies. The last liquidator’s report for CLICO (Bahamas) showed it had a solvency deficiency, measuring by how much liabilities exceed assets, of some $55.817m.
Bishop Hall, revealing that FTX’s implosion had brought back memories of CLICO (Bahamas) collapse, told Tribune Business the crypto currency exchange’s failure again highlighted the need for greater scrutiny of incoming investors. “I pray that the FTX debacle will cause the Government to be more careful and judicious with how it analyses investors,” he added.
“We need the investors, and thank God for them. They play a role in our development. It’s just that we want them so bad that we lower our guard. There must be some way companies coming into this country must leave money in some fund so if things go wrong people can be compensated. We need to be less passive and more aggressive.”
Suggesting that many CLICO victims have “given up taking on the fight”, with many suffering from “apathy” and a feeling of helplessness that there is little they can do but wait on the Government, Bishop Hall argued that he and the failed insurer’s other clients should be given the same priority as those investors in FTX.
“For every billionaire who put money in FTX there’s Mama Sou or Papa Lou who put $25,000 into CLICO,” Bishop Hall added. “It’s the same thing. The amount of money is relative. It’s who owns the money. We’ve got to protect the small man. I think it’s because the expatriate is an expatriate. We need to stop this backward perspective that we show sometimes. We still have these latent social idiosyncracies that look after the big guy.”
Craig A. ‘Tony’ Gomez, the Baker Tilly Gomez accountant and principal, remains gagged in his role as CLICO (Bahamas) liquidator and unable to speak publicly. He was appointed after the insurer was placed in Supreme Court-supervised liquidation in April 2009 following the financial difficulties that engulfed its Trinidad-based parent, CL Financial, which was chaired by Lawrence Duprey.
Despite findings that CLICO (Bahamas) broke Bahamian exchange control laws, plus other rules and regulations, with its investments in the Wellington Preserve real estate project in Florida, nobody has been held accountable or responsible for a corporate failure that impacted the domestic economy and hundreds of lower and middle income earners.
The Government has effectively stepped in to pay CLICO (Bahamas) policyholders, and make them whole, given the length of time it is taking Mr Gomez to realise the insurer’s remaining assets through a complex multi-jurisdictional process. Any assets he recovers will ultimately be used to reimburse the Government.
Under the terms of the guarantee, all surrendered policies, death benefits and CLICO (Bahamas) staff pensions are to be paid in full. Annuity holders and pension beneficiaries were to receive a maximum $10,000, with the balance supported by a seven, ten or 15-year promissory note and interest paid on these quarterly.
GodSpeed 2 months, 2 weeks ago
The whole point of cryptocurrency is supposed to be NOT entrusting your funds to someone else, self-custody. That's the irony.
bobby2 2 months, 2 weeks ago
When are people going to wake up & finally realize Cryptocurrency is a made up monopoly money which in the end benefits only a few of the inside scammers & will cause financial loss & heartache to the vast number of investors. Market value crashes are/have happened all over the cryoto market world for the last 5 years or so!
ExposedU2C 2 months, 2 weeks ago
This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.
ExposedU2C 2 months, 2 weeks ago
Removed by The Tribune to comply with its unconstitutional censorship policies.
DonAnthony 2 months, 2 weeks ago
Can someone please explain to me why it is the responsibility of Bahamian taxpayers to compensate these persons for the failings of a private company? So in this case profits of this company were privatized but now that it has failed the losses must be nationalized! Who will compensate me for my financial losses?
TalRussell 2 months, 2 weeks ago
@Comrade DonAnthony, what ever came of the 425 acres and its promised $32.5 million cash was be recovered from Wellington Preserve real estate project, — Yes?
realitycheck242 2 months, 2 weeks ago
The CLICO payouts fall in the Government lap and by extension the taxpayers, because Government agencies like the central bank, Insurance commission of the Bahamas, Bahamas investment authority were all asleep on the job while Clico transferred the policy holder's retirement money out of this country in bogus investments like the Wellington Preserve real estate project in florida..
ThisIsOurs 2 months, 2 weeks ago
I see another firm talking about mortgage backed securities. I'm very skeptical
DWW 2 months, 2 weeks ago
My thoughts exactly
TalRussell 2 months, 2 weeks ago
Look no further than the Popoulaces'Purse owned Bank of Bahamas (BOB), who the financial regulators thought it was okay (BOB) to assign unsecured $100 million in 'bad debt, only to put it in BOB assets' ledger.
If that isn't cooking the assets books, then pray tell what is because there's lots resemblance FTX Bahamas?
Must keep eyes open to see if you can spot the mysterious bicycle mustache gentleman's been seen wandering about Nassau Town's banks, law offices and government offices, ---- Yes?
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