Does Barbados Chief Justice Simmons Own Shares In The Country’s Largest Newspaper?

sir-david-simmons-barbados.jpg

Should The Chief Justice Declare Any Ownership Interest In The Nation News Or Other Media?

Should An Attorney General Declare Any Ownership Interest In News Media?

What About Close Family Members?

We never even thought about it until we witnessed a conversation between four different readers in the comments section of our article Heard On The Streets Of Bridgetown, Barbados. A reader “John Doe” stated that Chief Justice David Simmons is “one of the largest shareholders of the Nation corporation and Starcom network.”

For the moment, let’s forget about whether this statement is true or not as it relates to David Simmons – while we generally consider the ethical and conflict of interest questions that are at the heart of the issue.

In Barbados, Newspaper Owners Are Big Frogs In A Small Pond

In a small country like Barbados, enormous influence can be exerted through the relatively small local media outlets. Consequently, those who hold significant ownership interests in the local media can influence national events in a manner that is totally out of proportion to their relatively small investment. Think of it this way – in the United States, owning say, 25% of a newspaper the size of our Nation News wouldn’t count much more than spit on the sidewalk in terms of national influence – but here in Barbados a 25% share of the Nation News would make the owner a very big frog in our small pond.

Should any media ownership be declared by the Chief Justice, Attorney General or any Cabinet Minister in Barbados?

We think so.

Our democracy seems to be increasingly fragile and common sense dictates that citizens should at the very least be aware of conflicts of interest in our society. This media ownership issue is relevant for all Government Ministers, but especially so for the Attorney General who must wear many hats – some of them seemingly in direct conflict with his presumed political loyalties. The Attorney General has a duty to uphold the law and this theoretically can put him in conflict with members of his own party who are either under suspicion or before the courts for any reason.

The Office Of The Chief Justice Must Appear To Be Impartial And Non-Political… Oops!

It goes without saying that the Chief Justice and the Office Of Chief Justice must remain above issues of politics and partisanship of any kind if he or she is not only to properly discharge their duties, but also be seen and perceived to be impartial. As we have stated many times before, that is the foundation of our objection to the appointment of David Simmons as Chief Justice. No matter what his qualifications, wisdom, integrity or his personal desire to properly fulfill his duties, his instant transformation from Attorney General and Government Cabinet Minister to Chief Justice was highly inappropriate and even unethical.

Sir David Anthony Carthcart Simmons K.A., B.C.H., Q.C., LL.M., Chief Justice Of Barbados served continuously for 25 years in the Parliament of Barbados from February 1970 to 27 August 2001, on which date he retired from active politics. He twice served as Attorney General – from 1985 to 1986 and from September 1994 to August 2001.

On many occasions during the latter period, Sir David acted as Prime Minister of Barbados.

As Attorney-General, Sir David chaired many initiatives and conferences, including the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (1997/98); the Joint US/Caribbean Sub-Committee which developed a Plan of Action on Justice and Security issues; the Regional Committee for the establishment of a project for Maritime Cooperation Against the Traffic In Illicit Narcotic Drugs in the Caribbean (1999-2002); and the Preparatory Committee to establish the Caribbean Court of Justice (1999-2001).

For his contribution to public service and politics, he was awarded both the Barbados Centennial Honour (B.C.H.) and the Knight of St. Andrew (K.A.) in 2001. Sir David Simmons is married to former High Court Judge, Madame Justice Marie MacCormack. They have two children, Gavin and Lynne-Marie.

… from the website of the Caribbean Court Of Justice (link here)

How can the Chief Justice appear to be impartial if only a few weeks before his appointment he was a senior member of the currently ruling government? How can he reasonably be in charge of a justice system where citizens seek protection from wrongdoing or heavy handedness by government – when he personally took part in so many political campaigns and government initiatives?

David Simmons was part of a government that did, and still does, give out public funds, jobs, cars and other perks to political supporters while penalizing those who support other parties. Merely reading some of his past political comments about other parties and their members would give many persons pause about their ability to now find justice in our courts.

It is our position that David Simmons should not have accepted the office of Chief Justice because his appointment weakened the Office of the Chief Justice – not only for his tenure, but for others who will follow. Once again this is not because Justice Simmons has acted improperly in his office – it is because his appointment lacks the appearance of impartiality.

Now to the question of whether or not Barbados Chief Justice David Simmons owns or owned shares of news media companies now or at any time in the past…

The following conversation took place in our comments section. (link here) …

John Doe
May 27th, 2007 at 7:00 pm

I guess you guys didn’t know that David Simmons is one of the largest shareholders of the nation corporation and Starcom network. It will be great when the shareholders register of companies finally becomes a public document, then you will be able to see who ones what.

Vigilante
May 28th, 2007 at 1:44 am

Why do you continue to post lies about our CJ? Since some of you follow him so closely, you should recall that on 7 September 1994, when he was sworn in as AG he announced to the press at Government House that he had resigned his directorships in all companies. Go and check the registry of Corporate Affairs. As someome who does know the CJ, I can tell you that he sold his shares in the Nation corporation when he became CJ to prevent even the possibility of a conflict of interest arising. John Doe et al, the depth of your nasty lies is pathetic.

Wishing in Vain
May 28th, 2007 at 4:53 am

What are you suggesting that the CJ sold the shares to his childern for safe keeping???

Vigilante surely you are not so easily misled or fooled.

files
May 28th, 2007 at 5:07 am

Vigilante, “Go and check the registry of Corporate Affairs” Will we find the files to check or will they be “misplaced”?

Important Issues Raised By Our Readers

In an attempt to defend Chief Justice David Simmons, reader “Vigilante” lets it slip that when Sir David Simmons was Attorney General, he still owned shares of The Nation News.

Assuming that Vigilante’s statement is true, if that isn’t a conflict of interest I don’t know what is. Was the public aware that the newspaper that they depended upon to have some oversight of the government was in fact partially owned by a senior member of Cabinet?

The second question that arises from Vigilante’s statement is …

Who did David Simmons sell his Nation News shares to when he became Chief Justice?

If the Chief Justice sold his shares to a stranger on the open market… no problem.

If he sold them to a “friend” who may sell them back to him one day for the “same price” – we may have a problem.

If David Simmons sold his shares in The Nation News to a family member – we’d call that a “phony” sale done so the Chief Justice could maintain control of his assets while pretending to do the right thing.

Well, Chief Justice Sir David Simmons?

The citizens of Barbados deserve an answer… because the truth matters.

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27 Comments

Filed under Barbados, Crime & Law, News Media, Politics & Corruption

27 responses to “Does Barbados Chief Justice Simmons Own Shares In The Country’s Largest Newspaper?

  1. Yardbroom

    On the 27th May I wrote, under the thread:
    Response By Nation News Publisher Vivian-Anne Gittens “Weak. Not Good Enough.Lacks Leadership. Cowardly”
    ” There also has to be a dichotomy between those who administer justice and private companies, particularly when judges etc are asked to adjudicate in related matters. If judges wish to continue as such, a blind trust should manage their business affairs before being appointed , if not, leave the judiciary alone.”
    Some positions are so important in the affairs of a country, that persons so entrusted with those positions must be beyond reproach. I am not suggesting that the present Chief Justice is not. I personally have no evidence so to suggest, but in the Law as in many things related “perception” is everything, and those in such positions should know when it is necessary to do the right thing.

    ****************

    Comment by BFP Marcus

    Well said, Yardbroom.

  2. concerned

    Vigilante suggests checking the Registry of Corporate Affairs.

    What exactly is registered there for us to check that will enlighten us?
    NOTHING!!

    Companies in Barbados are not required to declare their beneficial owners and few declare their shareholders or file audited financial statements. So just how much more enlightened will we be by checking the Registry?

    In any event even if the files did contain relevant information they often go missing so you cannot see them anyway. Many companies registered there breach the rules and several are under investigation which is another story for another day.

    Perhaps fellow BFP bloggers could visit the Registry of Corporate Affairs on Belmont Road. It costs $5 to search a file. Go and see for yourselves.

  3. Zulu

    Be careful what you ask for at Corporate Affairs. A few months ago I had reason to do a search and was told to hold on “a few minutes as I got to look fuh dat file. Somebody had it dis morning an’ I ain’t know way duh put it”. Four months later I have heard nothing of my request.
    I remember an interview with the newly resigned AG where he said that he was “made an offer Which I can’t refuse”. Can anybody recall that statement?
    Perhaps Owen wanted David from off his back so he could have made David the offer.
    I don’t care how impeccable David Simmonds credentials were, on principle he should not have accepted that offer.
    Dr. Richie Haynes once said that perceptions are more important than facts. Maybe he was right.

  4. honey bee

    It was the PM who recommended David Simmons for the post of CJ.

  5. Anonymous

    *************

    Comment deleted by BFP

    This commenter was placing the same youtube George Carlin video on many different posts.

    So stop it already!

  6. akabozik

    Sir David Simmons was an owner of the Nation while he was Attorney General? No wonder we can’t get any investigative journalism around this place!

  7. lawrence loughlin

    The Nation Newspaper is owned by a large Trinidadian media conglomerate. This transaction took place about 6 months ago. People that have interest in facts instead of innuendo can refer to the offering prospectus which is comprehensive. It is a publicly traded company with many shareholders. The major shareholder of the company is Sir Frederick Gollop, the company chairman and founder. It is a highly profitable company which is impressive because of the worldwide malaise the newspaper industry is presently suffering.

    In many countries public officials make their shareholdings public or put them into a blind trust. There are only a finite number of companies listed on the Barbados Stock Exchange. Many of these companies have cross ownerships ( Banks Breweries and B.S.&T. ). I presume this gentleman whom I have never met or know owns other shares of Barbadian companies as a investment portfolio. If so, it would be unfair to single out one ownership. Probably the best thing is to put your assets into the Fortis Fund ( I have no involvement or personal ownership of fund )which is a Barbadian mutual fund with a very good track record of investment returns. This takes you away from the decision making process of your investment which make accusations moot. My gut feeling is that these accusations are a non-issue.

  8. Wishing in Vain

    Guilty as charged, shares are shifted to another one close to him like his daughter for safe keeping to be returned to his ownership at the end of his cycle.

  9. Wishing in Vain

    Would have said daughter or son but I have learnt that his son went overseas to study to become a pilot but came back as an air hostess. so his daughter would be more likely.

  10. Somebody help Barbados

    tell the big man to call the election…that is the only issue i have…

    all what you all talking bout is a waste of time IT WILL NOT BE DIFFERENT UNDER BLP. we have to call the election and let the next government know we tired of the foolishness and we want a total change…election is the only thing to solve our problems…

    tell the boss clear the cupboards at Illaro and call the election…we ready…

  11. Vigilante

    I have checked my facts. It seems as if Lawrence Loughlin has check his facts too. It is a pity the BFP is being used by some irresponsible bloggers as a propaganda machine with no respect for the truth, the character or reputation of the people you attack. Lies are being peddled as facts. Reputations are being besmirched.

    Why do you persist in trying to pull down people who have contributed and achieved in the society and who have been recognised internationally?

    You are a despicable lot.

  12. BFP

    Hi Vigilante

    Whether we are despicable or not we notice that you have avoided answering the very issues that we brought up in our article…

    1/ The instant transformation of David Simmons from a Cabinet Minister to Chief Justice and whether that detracts from the appearance of impartiality of the Office of the Chief Justice.

    2/ Whether you agree that for the AG to own shares in the largest daily newspaper is an undeclared conflict of interest for both the AG and the paper.

    3/ Whether the AG sold his newspaper shares just before or after he was appointed to be Chief Justice.

    4/ If you applaud David Simmons for selling his shares when he became Chief Justice…

    “As someome who does know the CJ, I can tell you that he sold his shares in the Nation corporation when he became CJ to prevent even the possibility of a conflict of interest arising.”

    … then why don’t you perceive the same “possibility of a conflict of interest arising” when he was the Attorney General?

    Huh?

  13. concerned

    To Vigilante

    The problem is a total lack of transparency, accountability and conflict of interest rules.

    It cuts both ways. The lawmakers have only themselves to blame when it all comes back to bite them. They have created a double-edged sword so if they do not like it they are who have the power to change it.

    Pass the laws.

  14. J. Payne

    If ANYBODY in government had shares in the Nation before the merger with the CCN Group of Trinidad that would have been a conflict of intrest when the Barbados Government was reviewing their right to merge.

  15. comment

    If there was/is no truth in the rumours then the CJ has nothing to worry about.

  16. littleboy

    I suppose it is alright for the High Court judges to buy one of the BMW’s that were brought in for CWC.

  17. Yardbroom

    Lawrence loughlin

    I take the points you have made, and whilst I do not disagree with the facts you have outlined as I have no evidence to the contrary…

    The problem I have is your statement…

    ” Probably the best thing is to put your assets into the Fortis Fund ( I have no involvement or personal ownership of fund ) which is a Barbadian mutual fund with a very good track record of investment returns. This takes you away from the decision making process of your investment which make accusations moot”

    You have made my point, the person in the situation as you have outlined has not been taken away from the decision making process of his investment and that is the problem, a situation which is most unsatisfactory.

  18. Vigilante

    Hi BFP
    1/ I note your point but I don’t think it is improper. In fact, in Canada it is usual for AGs to become CJs. Do some research… Strange that you found no fault with Sleepy Smith or George Moe, both former AGs becoming judges ….
    2/ I don’t think it was a conflict of interest. I believe previous AGs owned shares in newspapers. I will do some more research and get back to you.
    3/ I really do not know the exact date but I know he sold them and did not hide that fact.
    BFP, why don’t you check with the secretary of the Nation corporation or Sir Fred? Actually, BFP, there is a simple way to check all this you know. From what I know of the CJ he is an accessible person. Why don’t you make an appointment to interview him? That way, we will get answers from the source …
    Huh?
    4/ Yes, because I think it was the right thing to do especially as newspaper reporters are in the courts every day. He has a lot more foresight than me or you.
    BFP, I have a question for you. Talking to my friends over in Barbados, the word is that this website is not only bigoted but unnecessarily berates black people. Is there any merit in these rumours? What, no discussions on the powerful white corporate Barbados on this website?

    ******************************

    BFP replies…

    Vigilante says…

    “Talking to my friends over in Barbados, the word is that this website is not only bigoted but unnecessarily berates black people. Is there any merit in these rumours? What, no discussions on the powerful white corporate Barbados on this website?”

    Vigilante, what colour is my skin? How about Cliverton? How about my son? Robert? Auntie Moses? George?

    You are new around here. Why don’t you do a little research and take a day to read some of our articles.

    Then do 2 things…

    1/ Answer the skin colour for each of our editors and contributors.
    2/ Detail exactly which articles are bigoted and (in your words) “unnecessarily” (?) berate black people. (Don’t forget to tell us what a “necessary” berating would be too, ok?)
    3/ We only have so much time and energy and our focus has been primarily on fixing the corrupt government and system of government. That has to be the first priority. If you would like to write articles that focus on “white” companies – go ahead and if they have merit we will publish them here notwithstanding that we believe that targeting a person or a company because of the colour of their skin is reprehensible…

    … as is falling on the old “some poor little black boy” defense is reprehensible just as Minister Noel Lynch did on radio. No Minister Lynch, you aren’t under attack by your fellow black citizens because you are a “poor little black boy” – you are under attack because your wealth exceeds your visible income.

    Period.

  19. BFP

    BFP replies to Vigilante…

    Vigilante says…

    “Talking to my friends over in Barbados, the word is that this website is not only bigoted but unnecessarily berates black people. Is there any merit in these rumours? What, no discussions on the powerful white corporate Barbados on this website?”

    Vigilante, what colour is my skin? How about Cliverton? How about my son? Robert? Auntie Moses? George?

    You are new around here. Why don’t you do a little research and take a day to read some of our articles.

    Then do 2 things…

    1/ Answer the skin colour for each of our editors and contributors.

    2/ Detail exactly which articles are bigoted and (in your words) “unnecessarily” (?) berate black people. (Don’t forget to tell us what a “necessary” berating would be too, ok?)

    3/ We only have so much time and energy and our focus has been primarily on fixing the corrupt government and system of government. That has to be the first priority. If you would like to write articles that focus on “white” companies – go ahead and if they have merit we will publish them here notwithstanding that we believe that targeting a person or a company because of the colour of their skin is reprehensible…

    … as is falling on the old “some poor little black boy” defense is reprehensible just as Minister Noel Lynch did on radio. No Minister Lynch, you aren’t under attack by your fellow black citizens because you are a “poor little black boy” – you are under attack because your wealth exceeds your visible income.
    Period.

  20. Yardbroom

    Are we to go into race again simply because it is expedient now to do so, there is a time and a place for everything, but honour and dignity are required of all, both black and white.

  21. reality check

    when you have no defense the last final card becomes race. Its all they have left.

  22. akabozik

    “when you have no defense the last final card becomes race. Its all they have left.”

    So true Reality Check! Noel Lynch could have said something to Ellis like “I don’t think that ambushing someone with that type of question is polite, but while you ask it I will tell you that integrity and openness are very important to the government… blah blah blah…

    That is all he had to say to gracefully exit stage left but his reaction showed he was guilty guilty guilty guilty.

    And the only way out that immediately came to him was ‘poor little black boy’. HE REALLY SAID THOSE WORDS!!!! Listen to the tape recording on YouTube you will laugh your balls off.

  23. lawrence loughlin

    WISHING in VAIN

    Your handle is very approbriate.

    Have you ever heard of Estate Planning ? If a person becomes a productive citizen and brings added value to his or her community they generally ( but certainly not all )accumulate some assets. These assets are usually subject to onerous death taxes. Therefore, estate planning is the legal avenue to assure your children some future opportunity. Estate planning takes many forms. One example is annual allowable legal gifts to your children. It is capped at a certain annual amount with a set lifetime allowable sum.

    Your accusations would make a tax free transaction into two taxable transactions. It would be considered a wash sale which would not recognize the transaction as a gift. Therefore, you would have to pay a capital gain on the sale for no reason at all, secondly, your asset would still be subject to death tax since the gift would be abrogated. It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever !!!

    I do not consider wealth as some score card as to the value a citizen can add to his or her community.I think the most honorable profession is teaching. Unfortunately, they are severely underpaid which is a worlwide problem.

  24. bajemonkey

    Gentlemen not sure I understand “Viglante”, but for the purposes of this discussion he is but a red herring ignore him.

  25. Anonymous

    so many convenient allegations of red herrings
    tsk tsk

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