Friday, December 15, 2017

An ‘ethics’ message for First Citizens

 Like Michael Harris (Express, March 17), I was stunned by the reported remarks of the chairman of First Citizens, Nyree Alfonso, on the purchase by a senior bank execu­tive of nearly 660,000 bank shares, most of which, it is said, were later sold at a profit of several million dollars.

Ms Alfonso was quoted as saying unhappiness over the transaction was “a complete minor furore. No regulatory rule was broken”. Was the criticism of the executive now for “moral (and) ethical reasons”? Ironically, she was speaking the day before the 2014 Anti-Corruption Conference of the T&T Transparency Institute—the local chapter of Transparency International, which places heavy emphasis on ethical conduct.

The horror, the horror; to think that whatever the legality of the transaction (and I have not yet heard anything of the results of the announced investigation into the matter), anyone could be so misguided as to raise the issue of ethics! You cannot do that, scolds the chairman, “because everyone’s are different”. Like Basdeo Panday’s politics, ethics must have a morality of its own. Moralities, indeed.

All over the world these days, populations are calling for transparency, accountability and ethical behaviour from their leaders, poli­tical and other, within the framework of good governance.

Banks in the US and the UK, for instance, have seen their reputations shredded largely because of their flight from adherence to strict business ethics, resulting in the cynical enrichment of many of their employees and damage to their depositors.

That news appears not to have reached Ms Alfonso or, if it has, she has either misunderstood the message or dismissed it as of no consequence. But then, British or American ethics may well be different from ours.

At the earliest opportunity, I shall be closing my account at First Citizens. That will not bother Ms Alfonso in the slightest. It would, however, bother me to continue to support an institution whose chairman so clearly regards ethical conduct as an irrelevance.

Reginald Dumas

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