Parris says he’s just a scapegoat for CLICO collapse
Six years after the collapse of CLICO International Life Insurance Company (CIL) in Barbados, the man who led the former financial giant has broken his silence, telling policyholders and investors he is sorry for what happened.
However, retired president and executive chairman of the CLICO group Leroy Parris said this afternoon he had done nothing wrong to cause the life insurance entity to end up in the hands of judicial managers and put the payment of pensions and other investments in jeopardy.
“If I had to do what I had to do, I would do the same thing over. The way I managed it, I would manage it again . . . prudent, straightforward and honest. I did nothing wrong,” Parris insisted.
“I did what I had to do and I did it right in the best way I knew; in the most professional way I was trained and I was convinced in my mind I did a good job. You might not think so now [but] you can say what you like. I took that company with $2 million in assets and when I walked away from it, it had a billion dollars in assets.
“I can walk with a straight head, straight face, cause I know what I have done. I am no thief. The only thing I have going for me is my name, Leroy Parris. Nothing more. I am nobody else, just Leroy Parris,” he further declared.
Parris, who has been under severe public scrutiny ever since CIL failed in 2009, resulting in thousands of investors out of pocket, blamed the collapse on “a run on the company” when word first broke that the Trinidad-based parent CL Financial had gone under.
“I am sorry what happened, but it is not under my control,” Parris said as he spoke to the media with two of his four attorneys at his side –– Queen’s Counsels Hal Gollop and Vernon Smith –– in Gollop’s Roebuck Street, St Michael office.
He said he felt the pain of the distressed policyholders, noting that he could also lose out big.
“I am one of the largest ones [investors who possibly stand to lose]. I am sorry. It bothers me that everyday I drive around this country and I see the investments that I had control of, to see how they look, the way that they [are] treated, the direction they [are] going, it really hurts,” Parris added.
“I can sit here and stare you in the face and tell you that Leroy Parris has never taken one blind cent from the policyholders’ funds and put it in my pocket at no time,” the former CLICO head stated unequivocally.
“First thing, I never used to sign cheques . . . I was too busy. So if you had to wait for me to sign the cheque, you won’t get paid.”
Asked what he thought went wrong to cause CLICO’s Barbados operations to fall apart, Parris identified “a run” on the insurance company after the parent company in Trinidad collapsed.
“The people in Barbados had asked the policyholders to pull their money out of the company . . . that the money was going to go to Trinidad, so the policyholders ran to the office and took their money out of the company,” he contended, noting that any financial institution that experienced that would inevitably collapse.
Government announced in December last year that it would establish a new company to manage a restructuring plan for CIL.
However, judicial manager Deloitte Consulting disclosed late last month that CLICO had run out of money. It said pension payments could no longer continue because the long promised Cabinet-approved injection of funds to sustain the operations of the company and proceed with the proposed restructuring had not been forthcoming.
Parris has pointed an accusing finger at Deloitte, expressing disappointment at the way they were handling the affairs of CLICO.
“I’m a hurt man . . . to see what those guys did for four and a half years or so and to kill it . . . Ask them how much money they took out of it . . . how much money they were paid. That is the question you should ask –– how much money were they paid out of that company?”
The retired insurance executive went further to suggest that Deloitte should present a report on the amount of money received and what they had done to keep CIL alive.
“My assertion for a judicial manager put in a company is to turn it around and make it work, not to kill it. That’s what happened to CLICO. But I become now the [scapegoat], I become the one who did everything wrong . . .”
In the first place, Parris said, the company should not have gone under judicial management.
He suggested that someone could have been employed to lead CIL to “keep an eye on the system”, retain some of the insurance agents and keep the company running.
“The company cannot survive unless it sold insurance. But [judicial managers] fired all the agents,” Parris lamented.
He also addressed the issue of the Executive Flexible Premium Annuity (EFPA), the investment product that promised high rates of returns.
“If you had a doubt in that particular policy, you could have stopped selling them. Trinidad stopped selling them. All we had to do was stop selling that individual policy and sell the traditional insurance that we were selling before. This was a short-term investment policy. This policy was only for two years, three years, depending on how long you wanted to put your money in the company,” the CLICO executive explained.
Parris, meantime, steered clear of commenting on his relationship with the late Prime Minister David Thompson who represented the company in his private capacity before becoming this country’s leader.