Committee members -- from left: Junior Bacchus, Sylvia Sutherland, Cools Vanloo, Jerry George, Jeanie Ollivierre, and Hugh Stewart.  (Photo: I-Witness News)
Committee members — from left: Junior Bacchus, Sylvia Sutherland, Cools Vanloo, Jerry George, Jeanie Ollivierre, and Hugh Stewart. (Photo: I-Witness News)

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, Feb. 22, IWN — Shareholders of the beleaguered Building and Loan Association (BLA) have elected an interim committee to interface with the Financial Services Authority (FSA), the government agency managing the BLA since Feb. 1.

The meeting in Kingstown on Thursday unanimously adopted a resolution that will guide the committee’s interaction with the FSA.

The committee comprises Sylvia Sutherland, Jerry George, Junior Bacchus, Cools Vanloo, Jeanie Ollivierre, Hugh Stewart, and Sunel Fraser.

Charles Thompson, who is based in Canada, is consultant to the committee and will act as a contact person for Vincentians in the Diaspora.

After discussion of the issues affecting the 72-year-old building society, shareholders resolved “to work hand in hand with the FSA to effect stability relative to the liquidity of the St. Vincent Building and Loan Association and to restore the organisation’s operational efficiency and profitability in the shortest possible time”.

The resolution called for the interim committee to comprise leading shareholders who demonstrate a clear understanding of the issues affecting the BLA and unwavering commitment to its survival, through preparation for and contribution to annual meetings.

The committee was mandated to meet with the FSA to agree on the key objectives of a working relationship, request weekly progress reports from the FSA, report to shareholders monthly, and seek independent legal council and support.

The meeting also mandated the committee to solicit results and reports of audit findings from the FSA and keep them confidential, review and amend the rules and governance issues of the BLA, set or agree on some timelines, and to workout a transfer mechanism from the FSA to the interim committee and finally from the interim committee to the new board.

Junior Bacchus, who chaired the meeting, cautioned against aggression towards the FSA, which took over management and control of the BLA after a Jan. 18 newspaper letter triggered a run on the institution.

“If we go to the FSA in an adversarial way, it makes sense that we don’t go,” said Bacchus, who along with Cools Vanloo and Jeanie Ollivierre, organised Thursday’s meeting.

“We must be prepared to be partners [with the FSA], to work with and to have some trust and confidence and be prepared to engage them in a positive way to do the things they said in the last release. We need to have stability, we need to have the association on sound footing,” he said.

A meeting of shareholders of the Building and Loan Association in Kingstown on Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, unanimously passed a resolution mandating talks with the Financial Services Authority.  (Photo: I-Witness News)
A meeting of shareholders of the Building and Loan Association in Kingstown on Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, unanimously passed a resolution mandating talks with the Financial Services Authority. (Photo: I-Witness News)

John Horne, a former minister under the now opposition New Democratic Party, suggested that the resolution also propose that the Government not have any shares in the BLA while it is under the control of the FSA and that it will be “immoral” for Government to borrow from the BLA during the FSA’s stewardship.

“We can’t necessarily capture that but we may very well not even be in a financial position to lend,” Bacchus said in response.

Further, in response to Jerome Davis’ comment that the resolution should speak against the FSA borrowing from the BLA, Bacchus said:

“I think we [are] clear [about] the regulatory role that the FSA is playing and it is not to intervene and take over and create further conflict. Because, part of the problem why we got here is a conflict of interest.”

The committee is expected to meet and decide on timelines for presenting to the FSA the outcome of the Thursday’s talks.