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KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, Feb. 27, IWN – The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has been commended for its statements to the public last week.

The FSA, in the statements broadcast by the Agency for Public Information, detailed its reasons for taking over the financially troubled Building and Loan Association (BLA) on Feb. 1.

“I think what was stated in the programme provides a full explanation, a full set of facts as to why the FSA entered the management and control of the Association,” Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said during a press conference on Monday.

The FSA took over the BLA after $9 million was withdrawn in the two weeks after a Jan. 18 newspaper letter by Luke Browne, an economist at the Ministry of Finance, asking if the BLA was about to go under.

The FSA, the state agency that regulates non-bank financial institutions, assumed management and control of the 72-year-old building society on Feb. 1.

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Leon Snagg, chair of the FSA, Sharda Boller, executive-director of the FSA, and Eleanor Astaphan, deputy executive-director of the FSA, made the statements to the state media entity.

They were the first electronic media statements from the FSA, even among complaints by stakeholders in the BLA and other observers about the FSA’s public relations.

At the press conference on Monday, Gonsalves supported the FSA’s plea for shareholders to help save the BLA by not withdrawing their money and to cooperate with the regulators.

The FSA, in the statements last week, said it is aiming for a town hall meeting with BLA shareholders in four to six weeks and an annual meeting in about three months. The meeting will seek to discuss the appointment of the future regular association’s authority.

The FSA, however, said these timelines are subject to the completion of audits.

The BLA has not had an annual meeting nor submitted audited reports to regulators for two years.

“So, let us read what they have to say and listen carefully to them,” Gonsalves said of the FSA.

“… from these comments, I expect them to meet any number of persons who constitute themselves as shareholders, whether it is a group, whether they are individual shareholders, other members of the public who have something to contribute. … That is within the domain of the FSA in the conduct of their own work,” he said.

FSA independence

He, however, pointed out that the FSA is independent of the government.

“Now, from the government standpoint, there are some people who seem to think that the FSA is the government. The FSA is not the government. The FSA is an independent authority set up by Parliament under a specific law,” Gonsalves said.

Some 200 of the BLA 20,000 shareholders met in Kingstown on Thursday and elected an interim committee to seek dialogue with the FSA about potential synergies to save and strengthen the BLA ahead of a return of its management and control to shareholders.