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2005-05-26 15:05:20

The Stench of Bad Business

We wanted more transparency from both the Government and Colina. We got it from neither.

Today the new information is that Mr. Jimmy Campbell is out; others are in; and that the attentive public is waiting for the rest of the story as to what did in fact go down between him and Colina Holdings Bahamas Limited.

That public needs to hear from the Government on this matter with reference to what - if anything the Registrar of Insurance Companies can or should do to ensure that this sorry matter is so resolved that the clients of that company - the public - is not made to suffer loss.

Today, we do recall that when the attentive public had learned that a deal had been struck - at long last - for Colina Insurance Company to acquire Imperial Life Financial "subject to conditions", some eyebrows were raised.

We also do most vividly recall what Colina's president had to say concerning the issue when it was 'confirmed' that approval had been given for them to proceed. As one report noted: "Commenting on the approval, President of CFG, Mr. Jimmy Campbell, said that the approval is welcome news and marks the beginning of a new era for the insurance industry in The Bahamas."

Even as Mr. Campbell was saying these wonderful things, we had our doubts.

As we noted then, "Today now that there has been some movement on the matter, questions are being put concerning some of the fine print, so to speak. This is contained in the expression the 'subject to conditions.'

We explained that the phrase - subject to conditions - invited speculation, and fueled any amount of idle chatter in the community. We were - even then - quite convinced that there must be another way: one, which is more open, more transparent, and more understandable to the Bahamian people.

We wanted more transparency from both the Government and Colina. We got it from neither. We noted that this explained - in part at least - why so many Bahamians were then so puzzled by certain aspects of the Colina-Imperial deal.

Interestingly, when certain questions did arise concerning the proposed deal, Dr. Roger Brown, Registrar of Insurance Companies noted that his office was aware of the concern over the acquisitions of Colina. He said that these opinions would not affect the registrar's decision as the decision to recommend the acquisition must be made based on the information presented by the companies involved in the process.

And as we recall, Dr. Brown continued that presently there is nothing in the Domestic Insurance Act to address this issue of competition and the new act, which is presently at the Attorney General's office, would not address this issue either. "I don't think that there is anything in that because there is no national policy on competition."

And for sure, we did make the point that "quite frankly, we do not know how this matter will be resolved, or in fact whether it has already been resolved to the satisfaction of the Government, Colina, and Imperial.

As we said then, and repeat for the record, "we want to know and believe that it has been resolved in the interests of the Bahamian people."

Today the jury is still out on that one.

Suffice it to say, however, we have come to understand that there are already murmurings and whispers to the effect that stocks may be over-valued; and that the money costs associated with this debacle could well mushroom into a tens of millions of dollars payout boondoggle for that beleaguered company and some of its principals.

As we know, Jimmy Campbell, president of Colina Holdings Bahamas Ltd. ("CHBL"), (the public company traded on BISX) and the parent company of Colina Insurance Company Limited, lost his battle in the Supreme Court Thursday to stop an extraordinary general meeting of the shareholders of CHBL scheduled to be held on May 20, 2005 to consider and if seen fit to remove Mr. Campbell as a director of CHBL.

Mr. Campbell was attempting to stop Colina Financial Group Ltd. ("CFG"), the majority shareholder of CHBL from calling an extraordinary general meeting (EGM). The court ruled that he did not have the authority to stop the EGM.

The Extraordinary General Meeting was held. Mr. Campbell is out; and the public is watching and waiting to see how this issue will be resolved, how Mr. Campbell will be paid for his shares and from what source. Even now, some so-called ordinary Bahamians are fearful that they will be the ones who will be hurt most.

A truly caring government would do all in its power to see to it that the public and policy holders are protected. We need to hear and know more about what did in fact go down to bring things to this sorry pass.

Remember this: we had our doubts. And so did a number of other Bahamians.

Editorial from The Bahama Journal

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