Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Rowley: Public pressure forced Alfonso out

Public pressure forced the Minister of Finance (as Corporation Sole) not use his majority shareholding in First Citizens to support the re-election of chairman Nyree Alfonso and three other members whose terms of office had come to an end. 

So said Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley, who on Saturday had called for the removal of the entire First Citizens board. 

“With 80 per cent of the votes, once the Minister didn’t sanction them, they (the members of the board including Alfonso who were seeking re-election) had nowhere to go. And consequently she (Alfonso) removed her name from being considered for re-election,” Rowley said yesterday.

Rowley called on Finance Minister Larry Howai to make public the report he has commissioned examining what took place at First Citizens with respect to the Initial Public Offering (IPO). “I am calling on the Minister of Finance to lay that report in the Parliament so that it could become available to the relevant Committee of Parliament and for debate, if required in light of the fact that the Government has indicated that it intends to put other State enterprises assets up for IPO. It is critical that there be a debate in the Parliament on this policy and on our experience from FCB (First Citizens),” he said.

Rowley said the report should be examined by the Public Accounts Enterprises Committee and should also be debated in the Parliament.

On Alfonso’s action yesterday, Rowley stressed that the First Citizens chairman, whose term expired, never resigned as she ought to have, following the debacle of the IPO in which risk manager Philip Rahaman bought approximately 659,588 shares and sold them mainly to members of his family, pocketing a profit of about $12 million. Alfonso had at first said Rahaman had done nothing illegal and that one could not judge a person based on morals and ethics because not everyone’s were the same. The statement had provoked immediate condemnation from shareholder activist Peter Permell and commentators as well as the Opposition Leader. 

Commenting on the outcome of yesterday’s meeting, Rowley said: “She (Alfonso) came to the AGM yesterday, thinking that she would get re-elected.  And my concern was that the Minister of Finance would have put her back up for re-election. However it is clear that she did not get the support of the Minister of Finance because even if the minority shareholders had voted against her, they (the minority shareholders) represent just 20 per cent of the votes. The Government has 80 per cent. So it was always a Government decision (whether she remained on the board). It didn’t matter how loudly the minority shareholders shouted, it took the Government to agree not to use its 80 per cent not to put her back. So that fact that she went there and had her name put up for re-election, meant that she expected the Government to support her.” 

 “The four of them (directors) whose term had expired required the direction of the Minister of Finance to use his majority (as the Corporation Sole) to put them back in. And it appears as though public pressure has caused the Minister of Finance not to instruct his representatives to sanction them,” Rowley stated.