KINGSTON — The issue of write-offs for some FINSAC debtors, while other requests were ignored, again highlighted Friday’s sitting of the Commission of Enquiry into the 1990s financial sector meltdown and the role of the Financial Sector Adjustment Company (FINSAC) in the recovery.
Since his first appearance before the Commission of Enquiry last week, former Minister of Water and Housing, Dr. Karl Blythe, has insisted that the Commission should review the write-offs. Dr. Blythe has been contending that while other persons, including colleagues in the 1990s Parliament and cabinet were given write-offs, his request for special consideration was ignored, although his assets exceeded his debts.
On Friday July 22, attorney for the Commission, Judith Clarke, tried to find out from Mr. Campbell why former owner of the famous Little Pub in Ocho Rios, Keith Foote, was also denied special consideration despite paying a lump sum of $26 million on his $48 million debt, bringing his total payments to $41 million.
“In light of the fact that some debtors were afforded write-offs of up to 98 percent, are you able to assert that as regards Mr. Foote, there was adherence to FINSAC’s guiding principle that FINSAC must ensure consistent treatment for all debtors in the portfolio,” she asked Mr. Campbell.
However, attorney for FINSAC, Brian Moodie, intervened questioning whether oral evidence has ever been given at the enquiry by any debtor of write-offs of up to 98 percent. He was supported by the attorney for the JRF, Sandra Minott Phillips, who said she did not recall any debtor giving such evidence.
But, Miss Clarke pointed out that while Mr. Moodie could be excused for not recalling the evidence as he was not involved in the matter until this year, not so Mrs. Minott Phillips who had preceded both of them at the enquiry.
“There is a document which, I believe, has been before the Commission on the extent of the debt and the extent of the write offs,” she explained.
Chairman of the Commission, Worrick Bogle, explained that a document with the information was submitted by Mr. Campbell, prior to the involvement of both Miss Clarke and Mr. Moodie in the case.
“I can assure you that the list was put in evidence, the list was dealt with, it is accorded an exhibit number and extracts from it was even published in the newspapers,” Mr. Bogle pointed out.
H e was referring to media reports which appeared February 4-5, 2010, listing some extensive write-offs, including a $112 million write-off on a $116 million loan and reduction of a debt from $325 million to $30 million, contained in the list submitted to the Commission by Mr. Campbell.
Miss Clarke questioned what could have caused Mr. Foote’s request for consideration to be rejected, after he paid the lump sum on his loan, and why was he not treated “consistently” with the debtors whose loans were written off. She asked Mr. Campbell what were the normal banking practices that would be employed in determining the level and extent of write-offs.
Mr. Campbell said normal banking practices would be used, including a review of the collateral available, payment history on the account, timeframe for payment and the debtor’s ability to pay. However, the FINSAC boss could only produce a single inter-office memo sent to his predecessor, Patrick Hylton, by FINSAC consultant, Curtis Bray, suggesting that the borrower had not paid back any of the principal on the loan.
“In 2000/2001, when the submission would have been put forward to the board, I would have expected that there would have been more information that would have been submitted to guide the decision. I am saying that from the files I have seen, this is the only document that I have seen now. But, it can’t be that this was the only thing that was submitted to the board,” Mr. Campbell said. He offered to continue searching for more documents on Mr. Foote’s case.
The enquiry is scheduled to resume on Wednesday July 27, 2011 at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, New Kingston.
By Balford Henry, JIS Reporter & Editor