Startling revelations such as that carried in our head line were shocking in their monolithic focus. Ravi Raman was referring to the Global Company Satyam, whose roots were in India, and its monumental crash in January this year. The questionable sum amounted to huge financial devastation going into some one billion dollars.
Ravi Raman was addressing Chief Financial Officer’s forum last week convened by the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants or the familiar metaphor CIMA.
Chief Risk Officer, Butterfield Fulcrum Fund Services (India) Private Ltd. Ravi Raman said there was no excuse that the Chairman of a company could plead in mitigating circumstances that he did not know of an imminent crash where huge sums of money could literally vanish.
Introducing the forum CEO, CIMA Sri Lanka, Bradley Emerson said some 4900 International companies were victims of the global melt down, Discussions that would emerge would have significant relevance to that phenomenon and the role of CFOO would feature prominently within that scope.
Ravi Raman was the key note speaker, and the panel at discussion time had Managing Director, Janashakthi Insurance Co. Ltd., Prakash Shafter, who moderated the discussion, The panel also comprised CEO Union Assurance PLC, Marina Tharmaratnam, Partner KPMG Ford Rhodes, Thornton & Co., Reyaz Mihular.
Inevitably at panel discussion the prevailing financial crash of the Golden Key Credit Card Company came into sharp focus. Reyaz Mihular said the Sri Lankan quest for money and more money was tragically overshadowed by avarice and greed. They don’t stop to evaluate feasibility of a finance company paying out some 70 odd percent as interest to investors. He said rhetorically ‘could any person pay out such interest?’ Although Sri Lanka boasts of something like 90 percent literacy monumental indiscretion demonstrated by victims of the Sakvithi scam, and Golden Key, were classic examples of investor disproportionate indiscretion bordering on lack of common sense. He said Golden key was a credit card Company and not a finance Company. Down the line investors had ignored this basic requirement and were looking to reap interest payments when in fact there were no interest payments to reconcile. Naturally resultant iconoclasm was inevitable ending in the morphed situation of total devastation of huge sums in crashing financial debris.
Let alone that the Chairman Of Golden Key was directly responsible, investor trust in the company and its chairman Lalith Kothalawela, was also wholly indiscrete and not of sound financial judgment.
Reverting to Satyam and its crash, Raman said invariably un-related diversification usually led to financial debacle
In the Sri Lankan context too. this was the pointed precursor to financial shambles that burst at the seams of that organization.
He said there was need for improved diligence rather than blurring segregation which did not reveal early financial indiscretions.
Similarly potentially false information also led to glossing over vital assessments of facts and clinical examination of such facts. that did not follow.
Raman said ‘Come clean when mistakes are small’ was good business practice. At any given time over disclosure was always a better. Significantly he also said the chairman has to take responsibility for all that goes wrong. More importantly ‘Sorry’ cannot get him out of a mess. ‘You don’t have to be a crook to go jail’, he said. Also applicable to Ramalingam Raju, Chairman Satyam, who eventually was exposed for falsifying accounts.
Raman said good corporate governance meant credibility and responsibility. Similar to company governance in the larger context of national governance he said good governance was essential for the economy to grow.
The failure of Satyam did have Government intervention, but there was no bail out.