Thursday, February 19, 2009

Something Is Wrong!

Where Were Our Financial Regulators?

By Marcus M. Mottley, Ph.D.

The history of the Caribbean is filled with colorful characters most of whom were born elsewhere. Some of the most colorful of these were the pirates and privateers who raided, raped and plundered their way to vast amounts of treasures. Some of them were even knighted for their plundering. These included men like Sir Francis Drake, Sir John Hawkins, Sir Christopher Myngs and Sir Henry Morgan (The Pirate). The one thing common to all of them is that they can be described as infamous!

Curiously, one should ask why these men of infamy were knighted. The answer of course is that they gave fabulous amounts of monies to the "Crown" and to the political elite of the day... and were rewarded for their largess.

These days we have modern day pirates. Yes, some attack ships off the coasts of Africa, while others ply their trade in other parts of the Pacific and Indian Oceans. They too contribute to the political elite of their era in order to have a license to continue their plundering.

And there are other modern day pirates. These include people like Bernard Madoff who was recently arrested for perpetrating over US$50 Billion fraud on his investors. Remember Kenneth Lay of Enron and Dennis Leo Kozlowski of Tyco who were both charged with massive fraud and corruption as CEOs of their companies. Their names will also go down in infamy! They too contributed handsomely to the coffers of the political elite... who turned a blind eye to their marauding and plundering of investors and shareholders!

Antigua has its own modern day 'knighted' pirate of whom I have been writing for over five years! He is a pirate that many embraced. Let's not forget that both administrations - the former and the current - embraced him. Yeah, yeah, yeah... the current administration had an on off relationship with him. The former administration... well... they wrapped their arms around him - then and now! He too contributed handsomely to the pockets - if not to the party - of the political elite here in Antigua! Did he contribute to others too... so that he could continue to maraud and plunder - metaphorically speaking of course?

But, as we have seen in the foregoing... pirates names go down in infamy. And so will the name of our current, modern-day knighted pirate of the West Indies.

Of course the problem for us is that Antigua's name is also now associated with this now infamous privateer... with his private company charged with privately misleading the people who succumbed to his piratical ventures. We made him a "Sir". We gave him additional legitimacy! We helped him to legitimatize some of his reportedly ill-gotten gains by giving him good land for bad money.

And why did we not do our due diligence? I know that people don't want to ask and answer those questions. One person told me that it was now "Water under the bridge". Well... it is water that will be recycled if we are not careful. He is not the first pirate and privateer who has come to Antigua's shores and was embraced by the politically naive and the politically corrupt. He will not be the last.

But when the next one shows up... we must do out due diligence and continue to investigate and ask questions all the time... for as long as it takes. Where is the treasure coming from? Is it clean? Why is this pirate paying triple the wages of everyone else? Why is this privateer willing to pay premium dollars - extremely premium dollars... for lands and other property? Something was wrong. No one asked questions. No politician asked questions (they were busy with outstretched hands - willing to give him anything he wants... public promising to give him anything he wanted when and if they were elected - having given him everything he wanted the last time that they were there!)

Something was wrong!

As it turns out even the financial regulators... the regional financial vault keepers - turned the other way... turned a blind eye! How come? Did he touch them too?

Something was wrong! As a matter of fact as it turns out... Something is wrong! But it took American regulators and investigators to find that out!

Something is still wrong! Why didn't out financial regulators sound the alarm when ordinary people like myself and "the analyst" who called in almost everyday to a local radio station kept sounding the alarm.

I think we need to look at our own financial regulators... Something is wrong there too! At the very least they are asleep at the wheel...

At the very least!