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Suenel Fraser.
Suenel Fraser.

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, Feb. 24, IWN – Shareholders of the Building & Loan (BLA) Association have decried what they say is limited information since the Financial Services Authority (FSA) took over the Association three weeks ago.

The shareholders expressed their views at a meeting in Kingstown on Thursday, where they discussed possible ways of working with the FSA to help to restructure the BLA.

The meeting elected a seven-member committee to interface with the FSA, the state agency that supervises non-bank financial institution.

Suenel Fraser, who was elected to the interim committee, told the discussion before the election that she is concerned about what is taking place with the 72-year-old BLA.

“I was most alarmed to have seen what I saw in the newspaper. And, felt that that really was just to create panic, which I think it actually did. And it put me and my investment at risk,” she said of a letter by Ministry of Finance economist Luke Browne, who in January wrote asking if the BLA was on the verge of collapse.

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Fraser said she has also read the FSA’s statements in the newspaper after its Feb. 1 take-over of the BLA.

“Quite Frankly, what I have read has done nothing for me. In no way has it said anything about what is happening. It is just a release out there to say don’t worry we are looking after your interest, without actually telling me what is going on,” she said.

The FSA has said that it will meet with shareholders of the BLA when it has adequate information to present to them.

Fraser was speaking after the chair, executive-director and deputy executive-director of the FSA made statements to the Agency for Public Information last week.

But the statements were not yet released at the time of the meeting.

“I think that the proper thing is, having taken over, within the first week or week and a half, you call a meeting,” she said.

Read: $9m withdrawn from BLA ahead of FSA takeover

In her statement to the API, which was yet to be published at the time of the meeting, Sharda Bollers, executive director of the FSA, said decision-making at BLA is vested with the FSA, and decisions are made through an executive committee comprising the FSA team members and the BLA’s divisional managers.

Fraser told the meeting that while the FSA might not have “all the information”, it still needs to talks to BLA shareholders.

“Because we have been here since last year, we have had no meeting. The board has been, in my opinion, discourteous by not calling a special meeting to inform us that they are unable to do X, Y or Z.”

The BLA did not have an annual meeting in 2012 and did not submit audited reports for the past two years.

Meanwhile, Gwenetta Dublin, another shareholder, told Thursday’s meeting that she was concerned about who is overlooking the shareholders’ interest.

“Who is shareholder’s watchdog in this current management structure, when lots of things have happened, many decisions have been made and we have not been given information,” she told the meeting.

She said that, if permitted, a group of shareholders should be there “when these highfalutin decisions are being made so we can have our interest justified and represented”.

Read: Reality at BLA still unknown

Shareholders of the Building  & Loan Association at the meeting in Kingstown on Thursday, Feb. 21, 2012. (Photo: IWN)
Shareholders of the Building & Loan Association at the meeting in Kingstown on Thursday, Feb. 21, 2012. (Photo: IWN)

And, Ed Walters told the meeting that his main concern was “damage control, because, people are unstable”. He added that investors are jittery because of the collapse of BritishAmerican and CLICO insurance companies.

He said Vincentians overseas who have investments in the BLA are calling to find out what is happening.

“They do not have information. Information has not been forthcoming, even to us here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” he said and suggested that shareholders “hire a public relations firm to do damage control so that people can stay on board.

“The water is rough but if we stay on board, we will overcome the storm,” he said as he encouraged shareholders not to withdraw their investments from the BLA.

Meanwhile, Sylvia Sutherland, who was also elected to the interim committee, said there was “lot of misinformation” in Browne’s letter, published in The Vincentian newspaper.

“And I think the meeting should be in a position to disavow some of the misinformation that is out there,” she said and suggested that shareholders telephone their relatives and friends overseas and at home “and give them the facts”.

About 200 shareholders — 1 per cent of the BLA’s membership — attended the meeting, arranged by Junior Bacchus, Cools Vanloo, and Jeanie Ollivierre, who are also members of the BLA.

The meeting mandated the interim committee to explore with the FSA potential partnership to restructure the BLA, which is facing some major challenges, including a $9 million withdrawal of deposits in two weeks last month.

Meanwhile, Ron Browne told the meeting he did not know why the BLA’s board of directors was disbanded.

“I don’t know that the board has done anything right or wrong. They are not there because the FSA removed them. The FSA owes it to me to tell me what the board did wrong,” he said.

The committee that shareholders elected include public relations specialist, Jerry George.