Case involving SSL, Financial Services Commission now set for Feb 2024

THE Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered that existing court proceedings in which fraud-hit Stocks and Securities Limited (SSL) is a defendant will remain stayed until the completion of a trial, now set for February 2024, to settle whether the Financial Services Commission (FSC) has the authority to retain management of SSL.

The judge-alone trial, which is to be held in open court, was on Wednesday set for February 6-8, 2024. The matter, which is being heard in the Commercial Division of the Supreme Court presided over by Justice David Batts, had been set for trial, beginning Wednesday and concluding this Friday.

However, when the matter resumed Wednesday, attorneys for several of the claimants indicated that disclosure was yet to be made in some instances while still others said some requests to the FSC and SSL for information are yet to be responded to.

SSL has been under the temporary management of the FSC since January after fraud allegations surfaced, indicating that some 40 clients had allegedly been fleeced of a combined $3 billion from accounts. One individual, Jean Ann Panton, has so far been charged and is to be tried in the Criminal Division of the Home Circuit Court.

SSL is currently involved in several open court cases, including with Welljen Limited, a business connected to sprint star Usain Bolt; Jean Elizabeth Forde; Deborah Franz; Mae Elaine Tapper; Jamaica Small Loans and Microfinancing Limited; and Robin De Lisser. Former SSL directors and executives have been listed as additional defendants in amended claims.

The FSC, in its statutory role, had obtained court orders to block a move by the SSL to file for bankruptcy. The Supreme Court subsequently ordered that Caydion Campbell, whom SSL had appointed as trustee, and its directors be blocked from disposing of or dealing with assets and liabilities in SSL’s name or its clients’.

It further barred them or their proxies from withdrawing, transferring or dissipating any funds from accounts in its name wherever held. The court order also restrained SSL and from winding up or dissolving the company and liquidating the assets.

Additionally, the order prevented SSL and its trustees and directors from interfering with the FSC’s team or their work. This includes the work of the recently appointed temporary manager, and to comply with the orders of the FSC whether from its agents or the temporary manager.

On June 2 this year, the Court of Appeal had struck down a request for an extension of time to file a notice and grounds of appeal from SSL and Campbell.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court, in the first of 16 Orders sought by the director of state proceedings, ruled that “the continuation of existing proceedings in which SSL is a defendant including these proceedings 1) Robin De Lisser against SSL and others 2) Welljen Limited against Jean Ann Panton and others 3) Jean Elizabeth Ford against SSL and others 4) Robert Clark, Bryan Clarke and Tanya Wildish against SSL and others, are stayed until the determination of the issue of authority”.

Furthermore, “any execution against the properties of SSL, “real or perceived in all proceedings including but not limited to the matters referred to in the first Order” have been stayed “until further order of the Court”.

Additionally, the court ordered that “any persons whether natural or juristic intending to commence a claim against SSL shall first seek leave of the court by notice of application”.

In making several other orders, the court ruled that with respect to documents not yet agreed but on which a party intends to rely, should be filed and served before January 31, 2024.

Welljen Limited, which handled an account for Jamaican sprint great Usain Bolt, has taken the former SSL client relationship manager Jean-Ann Panton and SSL to court over a decline in Bolt’s portfolio value from US$12.76 million to US$12,048. Jean Elizabeth Forde filed a separate claim against SSL, Panton and several directors relating to US$830,000 taken from her account. SSL also had recent court hearings with Jamaica Small Loan and Microfinancing Limited (trading as Boost Financial Services Limited), De Lisser and OGH Jamaica Limited, and Anor.