Curator riles depositors, creditors

Shakeman Mugari

WHERE matters of money are concerned, it takes more than just speeches and explanatory notes to convince someone.


T

hat is the lesson curator Robert McIndoe learnt this week when he was grilled by 50 livid Royal Bank depositors and creditors before they stormed out of the meeting he had convened.


McIndoe had called the meeting to tell the stakeholders to either turn their debt into Zimbabwe Allied Banking Group (ZABG) equity or allow Royal Bank to liquidate.


That sounded like an easy task on paper until question time when the curator started mumbling what the stakeholders thought were “unconvincing responses” to their queries.


Although 50 people looked too small a number for a meeting of that magnitude, it later proved to be a difficult crowd for McIndoe, who was flanked by his two advisors on the high table.


It was a tiny but highly-diversified crowd with representatives from all walks of life.


Among the stakeholders were professionals who juggled with technical terms and semi-skilled workers who were clearly struggling to follow the discussion.


Man of cloth also came to hear the fate of their churches’ savings from offerings and tithes. A man in a far right corner said he was a small-scale farmer and had travelled “many kilometres to attend the meeting”.


But despite the different professions and backgrounds, everyone at the meeting was bound by a single purpose — to save their investments and get proper explanation from the curator. After all, the curator had been charged with cleaning up the bank.


It was, however, one of those meetings where drama steals the show from the agenda. The official agenda was thrown out of the window as tempers flared. In the end nothing was discussed and no decision was taken.


Chaos started soon after the curator’s team had finished making their presentations and invited questions from the floor. That was their mistake because they did not seem to have the answers to the burning questions from the floor.


“Mr curator, can we have the income statement?” asked a lady. The curator replied that he had not brought the statement to the meeting because he did not think it was necessary.


From then on the crowd became agitated and accused the curator of trying to use them to rubber-stamp his decision to sell the bank’s assets to the ZABG. They said the curator’s decision not to bring the income statement showed that he had something to hide.


“I know why you don’t want us to see the income statement. It will show that you did not apply the in duplum rule on amounts Royal Bank owes to RBZ,” the lady interjected.


Others wanted to know why an independent auditor did not scrutinise the accounts presented at the meeting. They also hit out at the curator for not responding to their queries before the meeting.


“I don’t know whether it has something to do with you personality but why were you not responding to our questions?” said another depositor.


As the tempers rose, McIndoe called one of his lieutenants to save the situation. And up stepped an official from Corporate Excellence, the financial advisor for ZABG.


His intervention seemed to make things worse.


“And who do you represent?” asked an angry creditor. The official said he was part of the team that drafted the ZABG offer document. “Get off the stage if you are not a ZABG member. Ibva ipapo!”


That seems to have triggered the first walkout. About 10 members of the audience made for the exit in protest.


But the drama was just beginning. The grilling intensified. The remaining creditors and depositors then demanded that the curator give them a breakdown of his salary bill.


“Is it true that you paid yourself $9 or $15 billion? If so, since you are a creditor, why have you been paid ahead of other creditors?” quipped another man.


Some creditors also wanted to know how the bank’s assets were valued while others demanded to see the ZABG directors.


“Listen Mr McIndoe, we are not interested in what you are saying because you have already sold our assets. We want to see the ZABG guys, not you.”

McIndoe then pointed out that a ZABG official was present at the meeting. But the ZABG official would not dare identify himself.


As pressure for explanations mounted, the curator became tense and started avoiding some questions. That also irked the stakeholders who quickly left the meeting. “Why don’t you go back and re-do the offer document. It’s so badly done,” said a depositor who seemed to have some information on finance. With that, the remainder of the creditors and depositors left the meeting, living the curator and his team to ponder the next move.


Only three men at the high table, some four reporters, two supporting staff and three depositors remained in the room. After the meeting, the curator told businessdigest that he was not going to have another meeting again.

“No, there will be no other meetings. I will communicate with them through letters,” McIndoe said. He also revealed that their hopes hinged on a favourable outcome of the Supreme Court case where former Royal Bank shareholders are challenging the takeover of their assets by ZABG. Judgement in the matter was reserved.


“That’s probably our only hope. If we lose, then we are in trouble. Without Royal, ZABG’s profitability would be reduced because they have a large branch network.”

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