Information which was challenged in column came from Insurance Commissioner’s office

Dear Editor,

The tone of the March 3 letter of Commissioner of Insurance Maria Van Beek seems to suggest that she is reacting to the pressure from several quarters over her supervision of Clico. To accuse sections of the victims of the worst insurance failure in the country under her watch of making “reckless, uninformed and irresponsible pronouncements” (GINA release published March 1) might seem to indicate that Ms Van Beek is reluctant to acknowledge the scale of the problem or the extent of public concerns about potential personal and national losses of billions of dollars. Even if the government gives a complete bailout of Clico it is we the taxpayers who will pay it, while those who contributed to the crisis lecture us on how much they have done to protect us.

A number of persons have suggested to me that I should respond to the three issues she challenged me on: 1) the statutory fund/assets; 2) her reason for the approach to the court for a winding up of Clico; and 3) the name of the company, Clico.

1. I never claim to be an expert on insurance, accounting or indeed on any subject. However Ms Van Beek can rest assured that the provisions of the Insurance Act, including the difference between statutory assets and the statutory fund, would not escape any practising accountant. It is Ms Van Beek who has some explaining to do for apparently missing the assertion in Clico’s 2007 financial statements that the company had a “statutory fund” of $46 million and not the $9B she says it should be! As the expert and regulator of the sector, Ms Van Beek should tell the public what steps she took to have such an error in the audited financial statements rectified in a timely manner.

2. Ms Van Beek claims that I accused her of saying that it was Clico’s business model and investment strategy from which its problem stemmed. I did not invent that. Ms Van Beek said so in paragraph 10 of her affidavit. Ms Van Beek has insisted that it was the decision by The Bahamas authority to liquidate their Clico that triggered her move to the courts. It is not that decision which imperilled Clico Guyana’s investments.

Those unlawful and injudicious investments were impaired long before the move by The Bahamas authorities and required action, not excuse. But no, she waited until the property market in the US had collapsed taking with it huge amounts of Clico’s funds and then waited even further and longer on the Bahamian authorities.

3. Ms Van Beek writes that I wrote from an uninformed position concerning the name of the company. In her very affidavit she also refers to the company as SA!

In other words, everything Ms Van Beek accuses me of came out of her office.

Finally let me say that I welcome the press statement made by Ms Van Beek on the state of the company and note that she has taken several of the steps I advocated some weeks ago, including calling in the debts and guarantees of the related parties and giving specific advice to policyholders about the state of their insurance coverage. However she continues to repeat the vague promise she “attributes” to President Jagdeo that “no policyholder in Clico (Guyana) will lose their money.”

By now she should have sought written confirmation from the Minister of Finance to whom she reports, and not the President, of the precise nature and scope of the guarantee which in my view has to have parliamentary approval. Perhaps Stabroek News can clarify their report that Ms Van Beek “re-emphasised the assurances given by President Bharrat Jagdeo and Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh, that no one with investments in the company will lose their money.” That goes well beyond policyholders and was not contained in the statement issued to the press. It would however naturally raise the hopes of investors including the NIS. It would be painful if that assurance turns out to be false.

Yours faithfully,
Christopher Ram

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