Elements of the shrinking thinking class have watched in fascination, and some dread, at the attempted assassination of regulation, and the stonewalling of law enforcement investigation. It is this still developing drama where financial institutions exhibit growing reluctance to release documents, as ordered. I think this is more than principled reluctance; I believe that the unyielding resistance is tied to fear.
By way of background, financial institutions are known for being very conservative, and are traditionally yoked to privacy, if not outright secrecy. Of course, laudable press reports in terms of earnings and charitable presence are more than welcome. But one never hears of fraud and the other human caprices that plague every arena of human endeavour; bank robberies, yes; internal embezzlement, not here. Never happens. And when they do, the saving and investing public is none the wiser. This is the information lockdown that prevails, where dirty laundry is drowned in seas of silence through very quick and efficient procedures. Here in the morning, ancient history (unsubstantiated, of course) by the early afternoon. In the pristine world of financial institutions, people out there steal car mirrors and cellphones; but on the inside, they somehow never steal where cash is plentiful. They are never tempted to engage in such vulgar behaviour. In this way, public trust is neither tampered with nor diluted to any degree. All in all, this explains why there are never any official announcements of chicanery, or leaks; there are only stray whispers, which are rapidly doused. The Swiss perfected this science; Guyanese are now taking matters to another level.
Against this backdrop and history, local financial institutions are nowadays challenged with balancing the sacred interests of privacy and confidentiality (and their own reputations) against the ever-encroaching interests of the people and the state. What are the interests of the latter?
Whatever they may be, if at any time, those state interests possess the merest whiff of the malicious, or lack basis and merit, then they should be resisted and resisted mightily at every step, and at all costs. On the other hand, when the state is seeking to unravel criminal conduct and pursuing justice and the greater good, then financial institutions must bend and give ground. They must cooperate; end of story. The right messages are sent.
As a quick aside, in the US where there are endless premiums placed on freedoms and multi-faceted protections for the individual, inquiries into potential wrongdoing through financial knavery result in the removal of most barriers that would inhibit discovery and full disclosure processes. The SEC, the various State Attorney General’s offices, and the courts are neither denied nor thwarted. And so matters should be here.
In this country, the great majority endorses the view (and even so postures) that corruption is rampant, and that money laundering fuels an endless litany of criminal enterprises and visions. Accordingly, it is surprising and concerning that there are these dogged objections, and near scorched earth retreats arrayed against document production. I suggest that this gives rise to endless speculation. What is being concealed? Why the death struggle against disclosure? Why the fear? What is so explosive that it must remain sealed and out of the public domain?
I suspect that the answers to any and all of these questions can be very far reaching. Let this much be said: whatever the answers might be, that same shrinking thinking class is adding things up. The result is one enormous minus; or too many of them.