For the last year, the Chairman at Angostura Holdings Ltd has undergone three investigations of sexual harassment, all related to accusations made by one whistleblower. You will remember, from Part 1 of this investigative piece, that the Chairman and Board at Angostura were on the verge of holding a meeting that would have raised disciplinary issues for at least two employees on November 4th, and then claims of sexual harassment were filed on November 3rd.
Readers should also take into consideration that the Board we are discussing here is made up of two sets of directors: Government directors and CLF directors, and presided over by a Chairman appointed by the Government to seek the interests of the public after bailing out CL Financial to the tune of approximately TT$26 billion.
The three investigations were presided over by Ingrid Lashley, Diana Mahabir-Wyatt and Justice Rolston Nelson, respectively. #NEWSauce was able to speak to a few of its own whistleblowers to piece together what transpired under all three investigations. In some instances we have more information than other areas.
The Ingrid Lashley Investigation:
The Whistleblower, a senior female executive at the company, lodged her complaint on November 3rd. On November 11th, the claims were sent to CLF Financial. Ingrid Lashley, a director and Chair of the Audit Committee, presided over the investigation. #NEWSauce was told that Lashley attempted to have the investigation done as efficiently as possible to avoid trauma for both the alleged victim and accused. Contact was made with the accuser’s attorneys to discuss how they wished to proceed with the investigation. However, the Whistleblower kept Ms Lashley waiting for more than a fortnight for a response. The company’s lawyers advised Ms Lashley then that if the claims were genuine they could be pursued through the regular criminal system. It appeared as is the Whistleblower was dragging her feet and playing for time. On November 29th, 2016, Lashley dismissed the claims of sexual harassment based on no evidence being brought forward.
In January 2017, Asha Javeed wrote a series of articles for the Express newspaper about the harassment allegations. Fred Gilkes, one of the CLF directors, raised questions about the credibility of Lashley’s investigation. The CL Financial directors then convened a board meeting, declared the first investigation flawed on the advice of their lawyer and ordered a second investigation. The Govt directors received different advice from their attorneys at JCS but with Chairman Rolph Balgobin now recused from the board, they were outnumbered and outvoted.
A second investigation begins. Lashley and Balgobin are now recused from the Board, which leaves CLF directors in control for matters related to the sexual harassment investigation and a deadlock for all other business-related decisions.
The Diana Mahabir-Wyatt Investigation
In February 2017 Chairman Balgobin submitted a 35-page statement to the investigators: Diana Mahabir-Wyatt, Ian Roach and Annette Rahael. Balgobin’s attorneys wanted the opportunity to cross examine the accuser; they also raised concerns about perceived bias from Mahabir-Wyatt based on public comments she had made. Balgobin’s attorneys were not allowed to cross examine the Whistleblower and the concerns raised about Mahabir-Wyatt were dismissed. The investigative panel took four statements in total and never attempted to interview Chairman Balgobin. The panel then planned to release the report on International Women’s Day, March 8th, but this fell through. The report comprised statements from Shane Ram, Bernadette Sammy, Lyn Lopez and Ingrid Lashley.
Disputes over payment for the investigation cropped up around June. After taking four statements of evidence, the Mahabir-Wyatt panel allegedly submitted invoices for approximately $1m for research. Govt directors objected, but CLF directors convened a meeting of their own, approved the fees and issued the payments. The Whistleblower refused to be cross examined or to cooperate further with the committee, and Balgobin, in the aftermath of his 35-page statement, decided he would also not undergo cross-examination either.
From July to August of 2017, no further statements were taken. #NEWSauce was informed that invoices for a further million dollars were submitted, and Mahabir-Wyatt refused to produce the report or give an update until the payment was made. The AHL Board closed this investigation and began a third under Justice Rolston Nelson.
Justice Rolston Nelson’s Investigation
The Rolston Nelson investigation began in September, the Whistleblower again refused to be interviewed. The Chairman re-submitted his 35-page statement which included excerpts from telephone call logs and Whatsapp messages. Based on the Whistleblower’s failure to co-operate, the 38-page Nelson investigation into the complaints concluded that the Whistleblower had “failed to establish the allegations of harassment, indecent assault and fear of victimization” made in the November 3rd 2016 complaint.
In October, the Whistleblower, through her lawyers, asked for a settlement to drop all accusations against the Chairman, inclusive of litigation and police action. The company ignored the settlement request and dismissed the Whistleblower in November 2017.
Diana Mahabir-Wyatt subsequently questioned the findings of Nelson and the Board in a public attack. Around that same time the company’s CFO was also fired for being in breach of her fiduciary responsibilities. The complaints against her numbered several hundred pages.