It is now over one month and the clients of the ill-fated Stocks and Securities Limited (SSL) have not heard a word, whether negative or positive, about what progress is being made in the investigations of wrongdoing at the company.
One can appreciate that given the wide scope of the fraud at the institution it will take some time before the experts in forensic accounting are able to ferret out wrongdoings, compile data on the shenanigans that have taken place, and report on their forensic findings. One understands that these things take time. One can also be sure that what might have been heard in the public domain so far may very well be the tip of the iceberg of the troubles that plague SSL. The COVID-19 of mismanagement, ineptitude, and greed have dealt a mortal blow to that company. My instincts tell me that when the dust settles SSL will be a bankrupt entity, people would have lost a lot of money, and it will no longer exist as a viable entity.
A statement from the International Monetary Fund staff representative in Jamaica praised the swift response of the regulatory authority, the Financial Services Commission (FSC), to the allegations of fraud.
The Ministry of Finance has since announced its intention to move toward a unified regulatory structure. All of this is good and indicates that the financial authorities are eager to get on top of the problem and prevent, as far as possible, any problems that could arise in the future.
These are largely futuristic, but when people face a predicament as so many do in not knowing what is happening to their assets at a financial institution, present anxieties arising therefrom will be uppermost in their minds, which is why they need to hear periodically what has been happening with the investigation.
To the best of my knowledge there has not been a press conference, briefing, or statement from any of the investigative entities on what might have been found so far and the likely direction the investigations may take. One is not asking for a fulsome report as that is well-nigh impossible to give at this early stage. But silence cannot be the answer. In the absence of information speculations run on steroids and the fear index rises exponentially, especially for those in the Diaspora.
The investigative authorities, to the best of my knowledge, include the FSC, the Bank of Jamaica (BOJ), and the Ministry of Finance. One is not sure what role the FSC plays at this time. I am not even sure if it knows what its mandate is. We understand that it is now limited in its role at SSL as it has been placed under the jurisdiction of the BOJ. Some clarification would help here.
The role of the BOJ seems even more dubious. What role has been assigned to this entity and is that role in conflict with what the FSC is supposed to be doing? Who is answerable to clients who have a legion of questions as to what is happening to their money? Who can one contact about an account? For what it's worth, I will pass on to my readers and the general public information I have received from Ken Tomlinson, the receiver looking into the affairs of SSL, as to where they could write for answers to questions they may have. Queries may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Any further information received will be duly passed on.
There seems to be some glimmer of hope for those who hold equity accounts at SSL as, even if SSL should collapse, shares are registered in the various registries, including the Jamaica Central Securities Depository (JCSD) in the name of the account holder and should not be compromised by this failure. To the best of my knowledge, these registries hold the certificates for stocks. They cannot be sold by SSL. Ostensibly, these accounts could be freed up and individuals wishing to do so could transfer their account(s) to another brokerage house. This, no doubt, would be a gargantuan task, but every glimmer of hope helps in a time of distress.
I know that the Minister of Finance Dr Nigel Clarke is seized of the need to provide hope and that he is doing his darndest to ensure that people's investments are secure. After all, as has been revealed, the Government also has serious exposure at SSL. But periodic announcements on progress being made would go a far way in allaying anxieties.
THE INTEGRITY COMMISSION'S QUESTIONABLE INTEGRITY
The brouhaha over the Integrity Commission's report to Parliament for the possible prosecution of Prime Minister Andrew Holness for work done in his constituency has left a sour taste in the mouths of many Jamaicans.
To begin with, the way the report was handled has left many with the impression that the commission was bent on damaging the reputation of the prime minister and by extension the country. I really do not believe that the commission had malicious intent, but the report was handled clumsily and has done reputational damage to the prime minister. To make matters worse, Greg Christie, the executive director of the commission, retweeted a negative Reuter's commentary on the matter, as if to reinforce in the public's mind the severity of what Holness supposedly faced.
All of this suggests, especially to the Jamaica Labour Party camp, that there was a pincer-like movement, not unlike that of an elite German tank division in World War II, aimed at pinning the prime minister in a corner. Again, I do not believe this was the intention, or that Christie has any personal animus towards Holness.
Christie, from his time as contractor general, has demonstrated a tenacity in fighting corruption in Jamaica. He approaches this problem as a knight in shining armour, with zeal and passion. Sometimes he gets ahead of himself. He has seemingly done so in this latest incident.
To say he has nothing to apologise for, when he should have known that the commission did not intend to prosecute the prime minister but proceeded to tweet about it, leaves a lot to be desired. In this case it is zeal with knowledge and poor application of judgement.
Should he resign? Perhaps not, but he should be seized of the extent to which he has damaged the reputation of the prime minister and by extension the country. If he should survive in the post, he may want to temper his zeal.
Dr Raulston Nembhard is a priest, social commentator, and author of the books Finding Peace in the Midst of Life's Storm; Your Self-esteem Guide to a Better Life; and Beyond Petulance: Republican Politics and the Future of America. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or email@example.com.