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JAM | Feb 2, 2023

Isn’t talk of hastily winding up SSL all a distraction from the real issue?

Al Edwards

Al Edwards / Our Today

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Over the last few days, the Stocks and Securities Limited (SSL) scandal has moved from evident maleficence to now efforts to expeditiously wind up the company.

The minister of finance, Dr Nigel Clarke, has declared that fraud at the small brokerage house has been going on for years and escaped the attention of management, directors and regulators. How did both internal and external auditors allow this to go undetected?

These questions need an immediate response, and the focus should not be on winding up what was a poorly run company that has imperilled the entire financial sector.

Dr Nigel Clarke, minister of finance and the public service.

The minister of finance, quite rightly, pointed out that the Financial Services Commission (FSC) sought a court order to prevent SSL from seeking voluntary liquidation.

It cannot be that investors will be scammed out of their money with little likelihood of restitution. This sends a bad signal to Jamaicans and makes the entire financial sector look untrustworthy. Justice must be seen to prevail here and that must be the top priority.

Ken Tomlinson has been appointed to run the beleaguered company and, with 30 or so persons, including sprint legend Usain Bolt, being ripped off and their money missing, focus must be placed on putting a bad situation right.

Jean-Ann Panton, former wealth advisor at SSL.

Then there must be a thorough investigation into the matter to determine what transpired and exactly who is responsible for this fiasco.

Winding up the company will not help with this. In fact, it may even hinder it.

Many of the scammed people on that Jean-Ann Panton list have not expressed outrage and demanded their money be returned. They have remained remarkably passive, bar Usain Bolt.

One would have thought they would have formed a collective of the SSL victims and joined forces on turning their ire on SSL.

Maybe nobody wants to look the fool.

It has been announced that the FBI and top international law enforcement agencies are investigating the matter. Some have taken issue with that, bemoaning that it makes local crime fighting bodies look incompetent and not up to the task. Why bring in foreigners again to solve our own problems?

The corollary of that is, this fraud poses a significant threat to not just investors at SSL but the entire country and that the very best professionals are needed to unearth this heinous criminal enterprise. It also shows that the Government means business and is not prepared to let this one slide.

Bernard Madoff leaves the Manhattan federal courthouse in New York March 10, 2009. (File Photo: REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton)

In the infamous Bernie Madoff case, his victims insisted on getting back their money and assets were sold to make restitution. Investigators uncovered Madoff’s Ponzi scheme and determined all actors involved.

That must happen also with SSL. With assets of some J$31 billion, that should be more than sufficient to give relief of sorts to swindled investors. Haste has to be shown here. The country is watching.

If SSL is able to pay its debts in full, then its first order of business is to address the victims and those who paid a terrible price for its ineptitude.

Banking and investing is about trust and confidence. There has been this clarion call to move to online portals and services and one suspects this is cheaper to operate.

But it doesn’t detract from fundamentals – you put your money in, the institution should account for it. There are always risks with investing and one looks to mitigate those risks. The institutions are supposed to be the experts and more often than not do not refuse clients’ money.


That’s why it is disingenuous of SSL to now say: “SSL has an online system, that all clients can use to track their portfolio performance. In fact this system is considered one of the best in the world and accurately shows clients’ portfolio holdings. Unfortunately, it is common to the affected clients that they did not  use the online system, but rather, relied on statements generated by the former employee, which undoubtedly was the likely reason they were targeted.”

How insensitive and spurious of SSL and this is a huge problem for the entire sector. In its rush to move everyone to digital banking immediately, it has forgone how many people run their finances.

Stocks and Securities Limited’s (SSL) Hope Road headquarters in St Andrew. (Photo: Facebook @SSLJamaica)

There are those in their 40s 50s and 60s who are not digitally au fait and go about their business the traditional way- they lodge their money and they implicitly trust their bankers-not a computer.

They take employed professionals at their word, so, if a statement is provided, they have no reason to disprove it.

They do now, and that provides an almighty headache for the sector because Jamaicans will question the veracity of computer-generated information after this SSL saga.

Jean-Ann Panton was employed by SSL, she was entrusted by it. The onus is on the company to ensure it has honourable and capable staff.

Banking is continuing to discount the human element, and this is a moment to re-evaluate that approach.

Yes, we live in a digital age, but how best can that work alongside service and the unique dispositions of clients.

Recently, someone made an enquiry as to Elon Musk’s Starlink services in Jamaica. How does it work? Whom do I talk to? How much will it cost? There was no one to talk him through it, just a metallic telephone message that shot out, “If there isn’t a carbon unit to talk to please send your questions to this e-mail.”

Today, we have been reduced to being a “carbon unit”, our humanity is of no significance. This spells a frightening future for all of us.

SSL is now saying that it is not looking to wind up the company and appointed Caydion Campbell of Phoenix Restructuring, Advisory and Insolvency Services Enterprise as trustee.

“The purpose of the appointment was not, we repeat, not to wind up the company. Among Mr Campbell’s key objectives were intended to be to ensure that all necessary conservatory measures were in place over the assets of SSL, as well as to ensure compliance with the enhanced governance protocols as directed by the FSC,” wrote SSL.

Now that’s reassuring, but at the end of the day, people who were scammed want to know whether they will be getting their money back. Can SSL make that happen? 


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