Bitter Endings at Angostura Pt 1

A timeline is a beautiful thing. It adds context and details that make fleshing out how a specific event occurred important. Public monies jumping up in Angostura. This time line, this company, and how its finances are being handled are issues that should concern all of us.

 

CLF and AHL Chair, Dr Rolph Balgobin

April 2016: CL Financial Board constituted with Government and CLF appointees. There are 3 government appointed directors, 3 CLF directors and the Chairman is government appointment as well. This has been so since the bailout to allow for protection of the public’s interests in the company. 

May 12th:  Balgobin also appointed as Chairman to Angostura Holdings Ltd. He has oversight of all companies that fall under the CLF Group of Companies.

 

May 20th:  Meeting with corporate secretaries of all CLF companies and Chairman and Audit Committee chair. Bernadette Sammy indicates that she is aware of financial impropriety at Angostura but there is no CFO and she is being kept out of the role. Sammy at this time is financial controller of the company. This post was created after the previous CFO left and became COO. Ms Sammy, in her capacity as financial controller, functioned as the de facto CFO of the company for several years until appointed by promotion in August 2016.

 

Former Chief Financial Officer at AHL, Ms Bernadette Sammy.

June 24th, 9:51 am:  AHL Chairman instructed the CEO, Robert Wong, to find and hire a Chief Financial Officer. The company had been without a CFO for several years and it was unnatural and not best practice to have a CEO also functioning in the capacity as a CFO when addressing shareholders about the state of the company at AGMs. The Chairman indicated to the CEO, Wong, that he should either promote someone internally or if no one within the company was suitable, advertise and hire someone externally.

Robert Wong, fmr AHL CEO.

At 1:56pm on the same date, Robert Wong responds recommending Bernadette Sammy. 

July 3rd, 9:09 pm: The Chairman responds to email asking that a recommendation for her promotion be re-submitted or an external hire take place.

 

July 28th, 3:02 pm: Shane Ram, the head of Human Resources (at that time, he has since left) sends an e-mail recommending Bernadette Sammy for promotion as the CFO.

Her candidacy for the position of Chief Financial Officer was supported by Krishna Boodhai, Robert Wong and CLF Director, Marlon Holder. In the absence of any information contradicting Sammy’s suitability for the position, the Board accepted the recommendation and Ms Sammy was appointed CFO in August.

 

Sept 9th : Genevieve Jodhan, who had been in charge of international marketing is made CEO. She takes over from Robert Wong who has been under investigation since August and had opted to take vacation leave and was then sent on administrative leave.

 

October 15th: In her capacity as the new CEO, Ms Jodhan undertakes to do an Angostura Situation Analysis. The first three items of concern noted in that report are issues that should have been noticed by the CFO or the person acting as CFO of the company:

  1. Sales growth for the company was down.
  2. There was an audit needed for cost of goods, salary to revenue ratios and overall expenses by segments.
  3. An urgent need to examine receivables.
  4. Revenues were being overstated.

 

October 28th: Genevieve Jodhan finds a list of 17 subsidiaries. Angostura wanted to close 10 of them and retain 7. She noted that there were subsidiaries that she knew existed that were missing from the list. She calls the Chairman who is in Tobago and alerts him to what she has found. A list of companies that is false.

All subsidiaries have accounts, and all accounts are rolled up into the head. Money and product can flow from the head company to the subsidiary and vice versa. In the case of AHL, money was flowing out of the company to subsidiaries and disappearing. It was discovered that there were 45 shell companies to which Angostura was sending money, and those companies were not registered on the books.

 

October 28th, 9:09 am: Chairman Balgobin issues a stern email to Ms Jodhan questioning issues of oversight and corporate governance and requesting that she deal with the matter in her capacity as CEO.

 

October 28th, 9:16 am: The Chairman sends another strongly worded e-mail this time to the Board listing the many issues being coped with at AHL: “known falsification of documents and selling of certificates of origin. Illegal dumping of waste water into watercourses. A waste water plant we were told is operational but was never commissioned. Johnny Walker Black grey market fiasco selling at a loss. Completely out of control receivables in excess of $200m and effective selling of credit. And now legal entities all over the world for which no annual returns are done and no tax returns filed.”

 

October 28th: The CEO, Ms Jodhan, holds a meeting with Lyn Lopez (head of the legal department) and Bernadette Sammy to address the issue of the shell companies and tells them they will have to get disciplinary letters.

 

October 31st: Warning letters are issued to both Lopez and Sammy and a Board meeting is scheduled for November 4th. The Chairman has, by this time instructed that the matters raised in the October 28th emails be added to the Board papers for the November 4th meeting.

 

November 1st: Chairman instructs that an independent third party be brought in to examine the matter of the shell companies. PwC called in. Management letters, requested by the CEO, are produced by Bernadette Sammy showing serious gaps in financial management.

 

November 3rd: The whistleblower complaint is submitted. Some of the requests the whistleblower sought in the complaint filed are as follows:

  1. That the Board Meeting of Angostura Holdings Ltd scheduled for 04.11.2016 be postponed and converted into a CLF Emergency Board Meeting. (This request effectively neutralizes the Chairman and evicts him from the meeting).
  2. All acts of victimization and wrongful persecution of Employee’s competence, integrity and character stop.
  3. That the Board uphold the due, proper and right principles of good governance.

 

November 4th: Disciplinary concerns about Sammy and Lopez and the hidden companies are sent to the HR Committee of the Board.

 November 11th: Attorneys for Sammy send the complaint to CLF.

 

November 29th: Whistleblower claim dismissed.

 

December 16th: Allegations sent to the Express by Sammy’s attorney.

 

January 2017: A second investigation into Sexual Harassment allegations are launched.

 

To be continued…

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