Will FCB’s dividend trump ethics and morality?


This will be the first in a series of letters that I decided to include on this blog. As with other forms of writing these letters will encourage the readers on here to think critically about issues that can affect citizens of Trinidad and Tobago, where ever in the world we are located.

More will follow, soon:

On the heels of the First Citizens Bank’s (FCB) Annual General Meeting (AGM) there seems to be a view being propagated by the apologists, sympathizers and surrogates of the Nyree Alfonso-chaired Board of Directors that because the share price has shown some partial recovery and the Board has declared an overly generous dividend, notwithstanding the bank’s “flat” unaudited six-month financial results, everything at the bank is now okay; and as such the issue of the Board’s removal is now moot so let’s move on.
 
The obvious inference being that those of us good citizens including BIGWU, the Leader of the Opposition et al who have been calling for the Board to resign or be removed are really the ones who are guilty of being “injudicious, premature and prejudicial.”
 
It is almost as if the Board now thumbing its corporate nose at the rest of us by saying: “Money trumps Ethics and Morality any day” or as a former politician once told me, “by definition there can be no ethics or morality at the trough?”
 
I am sorry folks, I don’t know about you but there’s no moving on for me. I have lost confidence in this Board and no amount of spin-doctoring is going to change that. As far as I am concerned, the focus now has to be on the fast approaching AGM. Since this is the only forum will provide shareholders with an ideal opportunity to formally express their concerns, ask probing, inconvenient questions and demand satisfactory answers from the Board. In this regard several issues readily come to mind, for instance:
 
(1) Why wasn’t the purchase of the 659,588 shares by the former Chief Risk officer Hassan Philip Rahaman picked up by Board member and Corporate Secretary Sharon Christopher at the time of preparation of the company’s Shareholder Register, a necessary prerequisite that would have had to be finalized and approved prior to FCB’s listing on the T&T Stock Exchange (TTSE) on September 16, 2013.
 
(2) Why, even after Finance Minister Larry Howai had announced on February 14 that he had ordered a forensic audit into the said purchase, didn’t the Corporate Secretary immediately inform him and the public that Mr. Rahaman had already sold the majority of his shares? Since this was one of the major concerns of the public at the time.
 
(3) Who were these bank representatives that the Minister spoke with, was it the Chairman Nyree Alfonso, the CEO Larry Nath, the Corporate Secretary Sharon Christopher or all of the above and what did they tell him?
 
(4) Why did it take until March 12, 2014 for this contentious multi-million dollar sale to be disclosed to the public, interestingly, not by the FCB Board but by the TTSE, when these same shares were the subject of a forensic audit and this information would have been available to certain Board members including the Corporate Secretary at all material times between January 14 (the date of the sale) and to February 14 (the date that the audit was announced) and certainly long before March 12 (the date it was disclosed by the TTSE).
 
This is therefore a call to action of the 12,000-plus minority shareholders to come down to the bank’s AGM which is scheduled for May 12, 2014 at 10.00 a.m. at the National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA) to ensure that the Nyree Alfonso-chaired Board is voted out of office.
 
In the interim, I shall be grateful if you would kindly indicate by email to peter.permell@gmail.com, whether you are a FCB Shareholder and if so, whether you will be attending the AGM.
This is a must-attend event – you won’t want to miss it.
 
 
Peter Permell

Minority Shareholder Rights Advocate

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