TRINIDAD: CLICO shareholders ready to repay taxpayers

Shareholders of Colonial Life Insurance Company (Clico) say they are being ignored by the government and during a recent meeting issued a call for Government directors to resign with immediate effect.

At a joint press conference on Friday, shareholders representative Carlton Reis said shareholders want to negotiate with Government and to share its rebirth plan . . . but with Government making a move like a “gangster” to take control of a financial conglomerate would not be encouraging.

Reis made the comment in relation to a petition lodged by the government earlier this week in the High Court to wind up CL Financial.

Chairman of the Clico Policyholders Group (CPG) Peter Permell, who was also at the press conference, described Finance Minister Colm Imbert’s attempt to liquidate CL Financial as an “unfortunate and unnecessary act of desperation.”

Reis and Permell have joined forces to oppose the planned liquidation of CLF and held an emergency meeting on Thursday, shortly after Imbert stated at a post Cabinet media briefing that Government would not sit by and allow control of CL Financial board and its companies to be taken away.

Imbert said the petition is to obtain from CLF, all funds owed to taxpayers.

Permell is claiming that sale of the company’s assets, estimated at TT$40 billion (One TT dollar=US0.16 cents), would benefit party financiers and big businesses.

“It was an unfortunate and unnecessary act of desperation. It is not in the best interest of the policyholders, taxpayers, employees and shareholders of CL Financial and Clico,” he said.

He added that the cost to liquidate would be substantial and would be paid out of the company’s resources since the liquidators privately or publicly sell any of the company’s assets.

“That raises all kinds of questions as the public may not be aware of what is being sold, where it is being sold and at what price it is being sold at,” he said.

According to Reis, the shareholders are ready to pay taxpayers the TT$15 billion financial bailout of 2009 that Government claims the conglomerate owes them.

During the joint press conference 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.

While 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.”

Claiming that Government has ignored the shareholders, Purmell said, over the last eight years Government has converted CL Financial and Clico into a State enterprise.

“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.”

Reis insisted that CL Financial and Clico are in a position to repay taxpayers within 120 days and former chairman – Lawrence Duprey, the single largest shareholder of CL Financial, wants to see the company back in shareholders’ hands and is willing to advise the new management team in the background.

Clico is part of the CL Finance Group that collapsed in 2009 and received billions of dollars in state funds. (CMC)

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