CLICO policyholders have reacted angrily to comments by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart regarding “a list” of persons in his possession who had invested in the collapsed insurance company’s Executive Flexible Premium Annuities (EFPA).
They have accused the Prime Minister of “fear mongering” and have used strong language to describe what he had to say whilst contributing to the debate on the 2015/2016 Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure in the House of Assembly yesterday.
Stuart spoke warningly of a “list of names” and indicated that in due course he may expose them.
“It is not a traditional insurance product according to legal advice,” he went on to say.
Policyholders have not taken those comments lightly, suggesting Stuart was seeking to instill fear and had portrayed them as other than being victims of the CLICO mess.
Chairperson of the Barbados Investors and Policyholders Alliance (BIPA) June Fowler, said the list that Stuart should
be coming with should include CLICO pensioners who were still awaiting their pensions since January.
She said her focus was on next month’s court date when the judicial manager was expected to propose the liquidation of CLICO as well as the implementation of the approved restructuring plan.
“This is such a grave injustice not only for Barbados but throughout the Caribbean region. And one of the things that a lot of people don’t seem to recognize is that a lot of elderly people and widows have been impacted. People who the country should be taking care of have been impacted by this situation,” said Fowler.
“So to come to Parliament and [speak] of a list of EFPA policyholders, I would have loved to truly see our prime minister with a list of the pensioners who, since January, have had their pensions stopped . . . That is the kind of list that I would have liked to see,” Fowler added. “. . . Having a list of EFPA policyholders does nothing for those persons.”
Pointing to how swiftly the Trinidad and Tobago government had settled the CLICO matter in that jurisdiction, Fowler questioned why the Government here “sat on it”.
“The Prime Minister spoke of the oversight committee being in place and perhaps that was a better thing [but] the Insurance Act speaks to a judicial manager. Based on the situation that we have with CLICO, then the right thing to do is to have a judicial management in place, not an oversight committee along with the existing management team,” the policyholders’ spokesperson said.
“So during that period of the oversight committee exiting and the judicial management going in, you had the existing management that this debacle happened under their leadership, still in place. How is that right?” she asked, accusing the Government of showing no real urgency in resolving the situation after six years.
When asked about the latest developments regarding the recently-released forensic report, Fowler would only say: “The report is what it is. I assume it is for those mentioned in the report to have their dispute aired with the judicial manager at the courts.”
Meanwhile, one EFPA policyholder, who only gave her name as Joy, told Barbados TODAY that she saw Stuart’s comments as nothing but “childish, slimy, fear mongering and unattractive”. The 64-year-old, who said she was expecting a close to seven-figure payout, said there were people who felt uncomfortable following Stuart’s comments.
“It is very cleverly done . . . when he goes on to say it is not a traditional insurance product according to legal advice. Well, it might not be a traditional insurance product, but it has been accepted as an annuity. Again, that is bringing up things that could put fear into some people’s minds and anger,” said Joy, who had managed to receive the interest on her policy.
“The whole thing, especially how the EFPA people have been treated, is disgusting. He is saying ‘I know everybody’s name and I know who you all are’. So if somebody who is a ‘big-up’ can come and say that, don’t you think they are trying to get across some threat, that they are trying to make it sound like that?”
Joy noted that the whole situation had caused her embarrassment and many people she knew who wanted to invest in Barbados were now pulling back because they were not pleased with how the CLICO situation was being handled.
“Barbados has got quite a disgusting reputation overseas. A lot of people are talking about it and I get very embarrassed, quite frankly,” she said.
Joy said as a result of the situation, “stress and anxiety” had put her “under the care of the doctor”.
“I still have to take medication and I don’t know how long this is going to go on. I am not getting any younger. Where is the money going to come from? It is not a good place to put older folk,” she said, adding that some people she knew had to “forego medical attention” and others had lost their homes “because they can’t get their money”.
Meanwhile Alec, a policyholder of three EFPAs valued at about $1 million, chastised the Government saying empty promises were made about making funds available to a new company as part of a restructuring exercise.
Regarding Stuart’s comments, Alec said that “on a point of principle”, the Prime Minister should “examine his words carefully” since he was giving the impression that he was “against the people who worked hard for their money and invested it as they saw fit”.
“Mr Stuart gave the impression that we were greedy in investing as he called it for ‘quick money’, because we invested our hard earned money. The question I have for Mr Stuart is when the Central Bank [issues] another bond or treasury bill and offers it over a period of time for [an interest rate of] 7.5 per cent or 7 per cent, do you expect any local person to buy it because as far as you are concerned, that is greed?”.
“The other thing I would like to tell the Prime Minister is that it appears to me that he is accusing or casting aspersions at the victims of CLICO’s infidelity . . . That type of thing is really hurtful to me. That investment I made for myself, my children and grandchildren,” said the 79-year-old.