Judge to reassess CLF liquidators’ $24m claim for fees

The content originally appeared on: News Americas Now

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

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TWO Appeal Court judges have sent back to CL Financial (CLF)’s liquidation judge a decision on whether the conglomerate’s joint liquidators are entitled to $24 million in fees for their work in 2019.

Appeal Court judges, Justices Prakash Moosai and Charmaine Pemberton were asked to overturn Justice Kevin Ramcharan’s approval of the fees asked for by the joint liquidators of CLF. The Office of the Attorney General, on behalf of the Government – the principal creditor of CLF – appealed the decision on the request for payment by joint liquidators Hugh Dickson and David Holukoff, of international accounting firm Grant Thornton.

At the appeal, the AG, led by Senior Counsel Deborah Peake, argued that the judge’s approval of the fees could not be supported, since the evidence presented by the joint liquidators was bereft of details on disbursements and expenses.

Peake asked for Ramcharan’s order to be set aside and for the liquidators to provide information and documentary evidence to justify the amount claimed in their requests for payment.

She also argued that in signing off on the request, the liquidation judge missed a step in the process. At the hearing of the appeal, Peake said the Government’s concern was that while the liquidators claimed $21 million in fees between September 2017-December 2018, their claim for 2019 was higher for a shorter period.

She also said if the liquidators were allowed to claim exorbitant fees, it would reduce the sums which are eventually to be paid to creditors, of which the Government is the largest. In their ruling, Moosai and Pemberton agreed with the State’s contentions.“In this case, we are of the opinion that the liquidation judge’s findings and reasoning such as they are, were deficient. There was no analysis of the evidence or cogent reasons to support the findings and conclusions.”Pemberton, who wrote the decision, said record-keeping was crucial and there was an onus to justify the fees and charges incurred. “The facts, in this case, are unique, given in this case, the nature of the creditor, the creditor’s public responsibilities and moreover the size of the purse of public funds which were used to bail out this company, CLF.

“To even contemplate saying that the AGTT is asking for too much need only be stated to be roundly rejected.” She said it was incumbent on Ramcharan to do a thorough analysis of the evidence and ask questions if necessary

.“The court is not a rubber stamp,” she said, insisting the matter demanded a “serious and concentrated approach” by the judge. Pemberton also said they were “aghast” at Ramcharan’s conclusion that fuller reasons “may take a while.”

In sending the matter back for consideration, the Appeal Court judges directed that it should be treated as urgent and heard with alacrity. Also appearing for the Attorney General were Ravi Heffes-Doon and Romney Thomas. CLF was represented by Fyard Hosein, SC, Sasha Bridgemohansingh and Brunnock Reid. The CLF conglomerate was put into liquidation in 2017 to clear its remaining debt arising from the multi-billion-dollar bailout by the government in 2009.

This week, it was announced that Clico, the insurance arm of CLF, was being relieved of emergency control by the Central Bank after more than a decade.