“RESPONSE TO JUST ASKING OFI ARTICLE”
Rhonda Annesley's June 23, 2023 article ("JUST ASKING 'Why is the OFI Commissioner asleep at the wheel?'") is rife with gross inaccuracies that Samoa News is ethically obligated to retract. Speaking of ethical obligations, I am disappointed that Ms. Annesley did not even bother to contact my office for comment. Nor did she take the time to perform the rudimentary fact checking that would have averted the publication of numerous falsehoods.
I will focus only on Ms. Annesley's major misstatements that relate to the acts or omissions of OFI.
Misstatement No. 1: Ms. Annesley incorrectly states that "[t]he Commissioner has not enforced capital requirements." In fact, OFI has promulgated capital requirements that, for the first time, subject TBAS to the exact same capital adequacy standards that are applicable to FDIC-insured banks. These are the only capital adequacy standards to which TBAS is subject under the law. My office monitors TBAS's compliance with these standards on a monthly basis.
Misstatement No. 2: Ms. Annesley states that "FRB" imposes a minimum capital requirement on TBAS. She is presumably referring either to the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, where TBAS maintains an account, or to the Federal Reserve Board, which regulates its member banks (not including TBAS). Either way she is wrong; neither institution imposes a minimum capital requirement on TBAS.
Misstatement No. 3: Ms. Annesley incorrectly states that the "OFI statute" requires TBAS to maintain capital at a level of $10 million. Section 28.0216 of the American Samoa Code (not the OFI statute) merely provided for the initial capital of TBAS to have been established at $10 million. It is not an ongoing requirement.
All of the above misstatements could have been avoided had Ms. Annesley done some basic journalistic research using publicly available information, rather than taking the erroneous information provided by her source at face value.
Misstatement No.4: Ms. Annesley incorrectly states that I have not enforced the statute imposing a deadline for TBAS to provide audited financial statements. In fact, OFI is in the process of adjudicating a complaint that my office filed against the TBAS CEO regarding TBAS's failure to provide audited financial statements by the statutory deadline.
Misstatement No.5: Ms. Annesley recites a number of past situations relating to TBAS, including the restatement of its earnings from previous years, losses suffered from a since discontinued off-island loan program, and the testimony of TBAS's former CFO regarding the booking of loan losses in prior years. She then states that I have "made no move to call the bank's actions into question." In fact, my office has been actively reviewing each of these matters in great depth since last year. I have enlisted the help of a forensic auditing firm and a former banking law partner at a major international firm to review and analyze voluminous information and records that my office has demanded and obtained from TBAS. We are currently wrapping up the review.
OFI's extensive review of these issues has been conducted as part of our ongoing examination of TBAS. The examination is subject to strict statutory confidentiality rules under American Samoa Code Section 28.1210. Ms. Annesley complains that I have "made no comment" on these matters. But a cursory review of the statute would clarify that I am legally prohibited from publicly discussing the substance of our review.
Rest assured, however, that OFI will use what we have learned in the review to ensure that any appropriate accountability is imposed on TBAS and that TBAS operates in a safe and sound manner going forward. We are particularly focused on ensuring that these past situations have been fully resolved and will not threaten the interests of TBAS's depositors and other stakeholders.
Misstatement No.6: Ms. Annesley alleges that I provide favorable treatment to TBAS and that I protect TBAS at the expense of its customers. Based on what I have outlined above, that assertion is demonstrably false.
Reasonable people could debate the merits of the statutory confidentiality provisions to which OFI is subject. I will neither defend nor criticize that law, except to say this: Given the consequences that could result from inadvertently stirring excessive public concern about the banking sector, there is a reason that — unlike Samoa News - am reluctant to make reckless statements in public.
Tuasivi John Marsh
Honorable Governor, Lemanu P.S. Mauga
Attorney General, Fainuulelei Falefatu Alailima Utu
Treasurer, Malemo Lafoia Tausaga