A gentle reminder to SEC chairman


Just a note for our readers, This letter will be published here only a few days after the letter was published in the Daily Express. Also, I read somewhere, as in another newspaper that the report was completed by the SEC Chairman.

So, I left the dates mentioned in the original letter for contextual understanding only and that the article that addressed the completion of the SEC’s probe of First Citizens Bank was published on January 1st in the Trinidad and Tobago Guardian.

Following is that letter sent to me by Peter Permell as the letter was published in the Daily Express:

Dear Prof. Watson,

I hope this letter finds you and the hard-working staff of the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) in good cheer. I also hope that you were able to take some time off from your busy schedule to enjoy all that the Yuletide season has to offer.
With only three business days left before the country bids farewell to 2014, I just wish to gently remind you, sir, of your promise to line minister and Minister of Finance, Senator the Honourable Larry Howai, and the public of T&T to have the report on the investigation into the First Citizens Bank (FCB) initial public offering (IPO) completed by year-end.
As you are aware, this ongoing investigation has caused the eagerly awaited Phoenix Park Gas Processors Limited (PPGL) IPO, which was originally scheduled for July 21, to be delayed indefinitely. And according to the Finance Minister a possible merger of the Home Mortgage Bank (HMB) and T&T Mortgage Finance Company (TTMF) which was to be followed by an IPO of the new entity, has also had to be pushed back to a date unknown.
Obviously, what this means is that the Government’s divestment programme, as announced by the minister in his 2013/2014 budget presentation, has been derailed or, if you prefer, put on hold pending the completion of the SEC’s investigation.
Additionally, because of the delay many individuals continue to incur significant opportunity costs, having liquidated major portions their investment portfolios. As these potential investors would have either placed these funds on low-interest bearing current accounts or near cash instruments in preparation for the IPO, which was at the time being described as imminent.
It should therefore come as no surprise to you that word on the ground is that the Government and the investing public are not at all happy about the current state of affairs.
Moreover, I am sure that you will agree with me that recent media reports of serious allegations of insider trading in TCL shares by a former CEO, of the said bank, who is now a senior government official, and the attendant speculation in certain quarters about a possible cover-up have not helped the situation. In fact, any question as to why all eyes are now focused on the SEC can only be deemed rhetorical at this time.
Accordingly, if the SEC wishes to be taken seriously going forward, given its mandate: “to provide protection to investors from unfair, improper or fraudulent practices; foster fair and efficient securities markets and confidence in the securities industry in Trinidad and Tobago,” nothing short of a comprehensive market regulation and surveillance report based on its in-depth investigation (which incidentally must be made public) will suffice.
In closing, it would indeed be remiss of me if I didn’t take this opportunity to extend best wishes to you and your fellow commissioners, the management and staff of the SEC for a peaceful and productive 2015.

Peter Permell
Minority Shareholder Rights Advocate

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