The Amendment of the Companies Act 2019 presents a serious challenge to many persons but seems to have been imposed with little comment or protest. The amendment seems to focus on removing the methods by which investors conceal their identity. Thus ‘bearer shares’ are outlawed and numerous onerous and incomprehensible forms are to be filled by the share-owning public with the objective of exposing persons who conceal their share ownership behind other company names.
All well and good but the bottom line is a great hardship to the thousands of share holders in small or medium sized companies including home owners who have homes built on leased land – which is quite common in Trinidad.
I am told that major public companies are not affected by most of the provisions, but small non-public companies like those who administer and manage the leased land on which homes exist – that means you and I are directly affected by this change. Nowhere can a layman like me see what companies are affected in the Amendment as written.
The forms are a nightmare of complexity and bad drafting. Having been told which of the many forms I must now complete, and having attempted this but given up, I have to have it stamped by a Commissioner of Affidavits, submit to the management company maintaining my development, who then must transpose the information onto another form and deliver to the Companies Registry. This exercise must be repeated annually, involving time wasted at the Registry with the associated traffic and parking difficulties, and become fair game to public servants who then have more license to obstruct by demanding additional data forms that are not required in the Amendment.
To complete the forms is impossible to do without grave doubts that what you write is what is wanted. The Commissioner I visited certainly did not know, and gave the usual answer - “I think that is what most people doing”!! Since the whole Amendment is liberally provided with serious penalties at almost every section and form, this gives no comfort.
Of course this all means that legal assistance is needed so someone legally qualified can say “that’s what everybody else is doing”. And therefore the Amendment encourages another feeding frenzy in the legal fraternity.
Is this what our AG really intended? Does he think that this assists in any way to improving our low rating in the international scores measuring “ease of doing business” in Trinidad and Tobago? Does this encourage or assist home ownership in any way? Did he intend this terror attack on simple home owners? (I thought home ownership was to be encouraged). Has he set up an enormous help desk facility to guide us through the onerous forms?
Of course not. Instead, due to the complexity and Covid there have already been 2 deferments in the submittal deadline, and I understand a further amendment is in the making with another 6 months to comply. By the way no deferments in deadline, or planned further amendment is ever advised to the public.
I predict that come July 31st there will be lots of cases of persons exposed to the $10,000 fine (plus $300/day!) who are simply innocent victims of this unreasonable monster.