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First Citizens strong

By Janelle De Souza Wednesday, May 14 2014

The Ministry of Finance has already begun the process of looking for persons to re-compose the Board of Directors of First Citizens after four of its executives were not re-elected on Monday, and expects replacements to be identified within three weeks.

This according to Finance Minister, Larry Howai, who spoke to reporters yesterday after the launch of the Energy Chamber’s Corporate Governance Toolkit at the Hyatt Regency, Port-of- Spain.

“We are speaking to a few individuals at this stage with a view to identifying some replacements for the board,” said Howai. He added the Ministry was looking at persons who would “engender further confidence” in the State-owned bank. At the first annual general meeting of First Citizens as a public company at the National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA), Port-of-Spain on Monday, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Vishnu Dhanpaul, voted against the re-election of and refused to support directors Nyree Alfonso, Rishi Baddaloo, Shobee Jacelon and Marlene Juman.

Dhanpaul, who represented the Corporation Sole, the major shareholder at 80 percent of stock, told shareholders that an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) would be held in 30 days to replace the four directors as well as to fill vacancies created by the decision to increase the members of the board.

Howai noted, in accordance with the company’s articles, the Corporation Sole would have to give a minimum of seven days notice and circulate the names of the new directors prior to the convening of the special EGM.

However, he expected the decision to be made next week.

“The Corporation Sole felt that there was a need to make changes in light of some of the concerns that had been expressed and we simply proceeded on that basis,” he said. Former First Citizens group chief risk officer, Philip Rahaman, was fired on March 25, 2014 after an “extensive external investigation” because the bank “lost confidence in his ability to carry out his duties.” Rahaman had purchased 659,588 bank shares costing $14 million during its Initial Public Offering (IPO) and sold 634,588 of those shares four months later on January 14, 2014 at a $12 million profit.

Howai added the bank was very successful and continued to be very profitable, strong and well capitalised. He noted the IPO became tainted by “more recent issues” but overall it was a success based on performance, demand for the shares, and eventually, by the dividend payments received.

In a previous email response, Howai noted the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) investigation into the matter was still ongoing. He said, “If there is a conclusion of wrongdoing, the report may have to be referred to the DPP.

“We shall have to await the outcome of the investigation.”

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