The Financial Services Authority (FSA) says that the general meeting of the Building & Loan Association (BLA), including the election of new directors, will take place today (Thursday) as planned, despite a call for it to be postponed.
Chair of the BLA Shareholders Committee, Junior Bacchus, on Wednesday said that the FSA was not ready for the meeting.
“Maybe the FSA, in the interest of Building & Loan, should postpone the meeting because if they go along with this meeting without a clear position on the election, without people having adequate time to study the rules, there is going to be confusion at Methodist Church Hall, and it is not going to be helpful to the image of Building & Loan. It will further destroy confidence,” Bacchus said at a press conference.
Bacchus expressed concern about the manner in which persons were nominated to contest the elections for directors and noted that while the rules provide for seven directors, only six nominees have been named.
He further said that an information package was unavailable at 4 p.m. Tuesday — about 48 hours before the meeting was scheduled to take place — at 4:15 p.m. today at the Methodist Church Hall in Kingstown.
“So, the right thing, I believe — and this is not necessarily the committee’s view, this is my personal view — is for them (the FSA) to consider postponing the meeting. I don’t know why the FSA is rushing for the 29th [of August]. They don’t have everything ready.”
On Saturday, Aug. 31, some persons who have given notice to withdraw their assets from the BLA will qualify to do so.
And Bacchus said this could explain why the FSA is “rushing” to have the meeting today.
“… I believe their reason [is that] they want to point to a new board when the 31st of August comes,” he said.
The FSA took over management and control of the BLA on Feb. 1 after a run on the institution triggered by a letter by then Ministry of Finance economist and politician, Luke Browne, published in a newspaper on Jan. 18.
Bacchus’ committee has been partnering with the FSA in its efforts to restructure the financially troubled BLA.
He said that neither the FSA, nor the committee, on their own, can save the BLA and added that the confidence of depositors and shareholders would prevent the 72-year-old building society from going under.
“And for them to have that confidence, they have to feel comfortable that the FSA and the Association is working in their interest,” he said of the BLA’s 20,000 members.
He questioned the process through which Dannol Charles, Camille Crichton, Joseph Ince, Jeremy Jackson, Fidel Neverson, and Allison Thomas were nominated as candidates for directors of the BLA, saying it was not transparent.
Bacchus said that the names of the persons on the nominations committee are not known.
“To this day, we have not heard from the FSA, we have written and they have not responded to our request to let us know the names. Why there needs to be this secrecy?”
Bacchus accused the FSA of not using the nominations committee that was elected by shareholders of the BLA.
“This organisation belongs to shareholders. It does not belong to the FSA or the government. And it is important that the shareholders views are taken on board and noted,” he said.
He further said that the nomination form is not in keeping with international standard since it does not provide for a nominee to be seconded and can be challenged in court.
The rules of the BLA provide for seven directors but only six nominees have been presented to members.
“How are we going to get the seventh person, if, according to their (the FSA’s) rules, you have to vote for the nominees prior to the meeting?
“Nominations have already closed, according to their standard. What is going to happen? Is it that these six persons are already elected? Is this a democracy? Is this what we want to promote in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, where the FSA seems to want to dictate to shareholders what should happen to their organisation, rather than they listening to their shareholders?”
Bacchus said it is not going to be helpful at the meeting today to vote on those six names because they can be challenged legally.
He further restated the committee’s concern about the qualification criteria for persons to become directors of the BLA.
The FSA has revised the BLA’s rules saying, among other things, that prospective directors must be university graduates or professionals in the finance field or businesspeople (owner or manager).
Bacchus said persons with professional qualifications were on the board of the BLA when it came under strain this year.
He said that based on the new rules, teachers who do not have a professional degree, farmers, and business people who do not own the business they work in cannot become directors of the BLA.
“And our committee felt that this was not good enough. In fact, what we want in Building & Loan is people with integrity. And there is no requirement under the rules that they published to guarantee that they are people with integrity,” he said, adding that the BLA also needs people “with leadership skills who can communicate properly with the public”.
Regarding the information package that should have been available on Tuesday, Bacchus said he assumed that the package should include the revitalisation plan, draft new rules, and two years of audited account of the BLA.
“How can we go tomorrow (today) to a meeting with two years’ account, that we are given the day before, some new rules they are proposing, … and a revitalisation plan? How do they expect us to do that?” he said, adding that the minimum standard is for such information to be given at least seven days before a meeting.
Bacchus, however, encouraged shareholders to attend today’s meeting.
“The way I see it, people need to go to the meeting; don’t stop and complain
“… if you want the organisation to survive, come to the meeting. I am going to be there and all the members of the shareholders committee are going to be there and we are going to open our mouths at that meeting and make our voices heard loud and clear,” he said.
Meanwhile Executive Director of the FSA, Sharda Bollers, said separately yesterday that that proper notice has been given to members of the BLA for the meeting today.
She further said the FSA has engaged members in relevant discussions leading up to the meeting.
Bollers accused Bacchus of choosing an inopportune time to voice his objections to the holding of the general meeting and said his comments were not in the best interest of the BLA.
She further said that Bacchus’ objections the day before a scheduled general meeting are “unconstructive and distracting from the real matters at hand”, which she said is “preserving the future” of the BLA