SCHEDULE OF ACTIONS PROPOSED FOR THE WINDING-UP OF CHOICE BANK — THIS IS NOT THE COMPLETE SCHEDULE FILED WITH THE CENTRAL BANK OF BELIZE
The Schedule presented on this website IS NOT THE COMPLETE SCHEDULE but a summarized version which is consistent with the information presented in the complete Schedule filed with the Central Bank.
The Liquidator has complied with the provisions of the law by filing the Schedule with the Central Bank and presenting it for inspection at the office of Choice Bank Limited (Choice Bank) on the stipulated date. While it is the intention of the Liquidator to share information on the Schedule with interested parties, he is mindful that the Schedule contains detailed information on each claim, including account balances and the amounts allowed by the Liquidator on individual claims. The Liquidator has therefore seen it fit to limit the extent of details provided through this medium in order to preserve the confidentiality of claimants’ private information.
Requirement for the Schedule
Section 112(1)(c) of the Domestic Banks and Financial Institutions Act (DBFIA) of the laws of Belize makes provision for the Liquidator to prepare a Schedule of Actions proposed to be taken for the purpose of the compulsory winding-up of Choice Bank.
The Schedule prepared by the Liquidator and filed with the Central Bank, which is summarized here, is intended to effect the compulsory winding-up of Choice Bank in accordance with Section 112 and other applicable provisions of the DBFIA.
Inspection and Objection
The Schedule was filed with the Central Bank of Belize after the appropriate statutory publications were made, and is available for inspection by depositors, creditors, and other interested parties, at the office of Choice Bank in Belize City.
A depositor or other creditor or shareholder of Choice Bank Limited, or other interested person, may file with the Central Bank of Belize any objection that person has to any action proposed in the Schedule.
The deadline for filing objections is March 20, 2019.
Filing of Objection
An objection to any action proposed in the Schedule must be in writing accompanied by the appropriate form, and addressed to:
Central Bank of Belize
P.O. Box 852
Belize City, Belize
Attention: Office of the Deputy Governor (RSCD)
Completed objection forms may also be sent to the Central Bank by email to:
The Objection Form is available for download from this website.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE SCHEDULE
All amounts in these highlights are reflected in the currency of the United States, unless otherwise stated. Amounts in other currencies were translated to United States dollars at rates of exchange on the date of the Schedule.
Date of Schedule
The Schedule is dated February 18, 2019, the last date of receipt of claims against Choice Bank Limited.
Choice Bank’s Class “A” International Banking License was revoked on June 29, 2018 by the Minister of Finance of Belize. Henry Hazel was appointed Liquidator for Choice Bank on that same date and remained Liquidator until July 3, 2018.
On July 4, 2018, Cedric Flowers, Principal of the firm of Cedric D. Flowers, Certified Public Accountant, 54 King Street, Belize City, replaced Henry Hazel as Liquidator for Choice Bank Limited.
The appointments of the Liquidators were made by the Central Bank in accordance with the provisions of the International Banking Act (IBA) and the DBFIA, both of the laws of Belize.
The responsibility of the Liquidator is to efficiently wind-up the operations of Choice Bank Limited in accordance with the DBFIA, which applies to the winding-up and dissolution of an international bank by virtue of Section 38 of the IBA and Section 10 of the Interpretation Act, CAP. 1.
The principal duties and functions of the Liquidator are provided for in Part XI of the DBFIA, which also provides for various powers and authority which the Liquidator may exercise in the performance of his duties and functions.
Liquidation date is June 29, 2018. Subject to the provisions of the DBFIA, the Liquidator shall complete the following actions, from and after liquidation date:
- Determine claims against Choice Bank;
- Liquidate the assets of Choice Bank;
- Make distributions in settlement of obligations of Choice Bank.
DETERMINATION OF CLAIMS
Notice to Depositors and Creditors
In accordance with Section 107(4) of the DBFIA, the Liquidator sent a Notice for Filing a Claim against Choice Bank to all known depositors and creditors of Choice Bank, except as noted below. The Notice was also published in newspapers of general circulation in Belize, and on the liquidation website, www.choicebanklimitedinliquidation.com
The Notice specified the manner by which a claim was to be filed with the Liquidator, and fixed October 29, 2018 as the deadline for filing a claim against Choice Bank.
The Liquidator was unable to establish contact with 15 known depositors of Choice Bank whose accounts reflected an aggregate balance of $70,951 (US dollars or equivalent) at June 29, 2018.
The Liquidator received 1,348 claims in ten different currencies with a total value of $122,788,658 (US dollar equivalent). Of the total claims received, sixty-one (61) were late claims, representing a total value of $1,869,197.
CLAIMS VALIDATION PROCESS
On December 21, 2018, the Central Bank prescribed procedures for determining the validity of claims against Choice. In accordance with those procedures, the Liquidator made a determination of claims based on the process outlined below:
- Identification and determination of the categories of claims;
- Determination of validity of each category of claims;
- Categorization of claims;
- Verification of amounts and determination of claims.
Claims Evaluation Dates
Claims were evaluated and determined on the basis of account balances as of June 29, 2018 in the case of depositors and other account holders.
Other claims were evaluated based on the dates of the transactions which gave rise to the claims.
Categorization of Claims
All claims were determined to be unsecured.
The Liquidator identified and classified each unsecured claim in one of the categories outlined below:
- Claims on Deposits;
- Claims on prepaid card balances;
- Claims on Salaries and Wages;
- Claims of Other Creditors.
Except as noted below, the Liquidator determined that all categories of claimants were entitled to claim against Choice Bank.
Claims on card balances by holders of prepaid cards issued by Card Partners fell into a category of claimants who were not entitled to claim against Choice Bank.
Verification of Amounts Claimed
The Liquidator established a multi-step process for determining the validity of amounts claimed. Claims were logged, reviewed for completeness, and assigned to a dedicated file. Internally generated account and other information were researched and added to each file.
A review of claims, by personnel independent of the liquidation staff, was conducted; differences or discrepancies were noted as appropriate, and recommendations were made to the Liquidator.
The Liquidator reviewed recommendations and made determinations.
Determination of Claims
Each determined claim was classified in one of the following categories:
- Claims allowed in full;
- Claims partially allowed;
- Rejected claims.
Claims allowed in full
Claims were allowed in full by the Liquidator where the following criteria were met:
- The claim fell into a category which was determined by the Liquidator to represent claimants entitled to claim against Choice Bank; and
- The Liquidator obtained satisfactory evidence as proof of the amount claimed.
Partially allowed claims
Claims were partially allowed by the Liquidator in the circumstances where:
- The claim fell into a category which was determined by the Liquidator to represent claimants entitled to claim against Choice Bank; and
- Only a portion of the claim was supported by the claimant and/or the records which were relied upon for this purpose.
Claims were rejected by the Liquidator for either of the following reasons:
- Validity; or
The Liquidator rejected claims for which he doubted the validity of the amounts claimed, as dictated by the circumstances and integrity of the information supporting the claims, and/or the claims fell into a category which was not determined to represent claimants who were entitled to claim against Choice Bank.
In the case of claims filed by holders of prepaid cards, on whose behalf claims were also filed by Card Partners and allowed by the Liquidator—such claims were rejected, as those claimants were not entitled to claim against Choice Bank.
In accordance with Section 112 of the DBFIA, the Liquidator sent notifications to those claimants whose claims were allowed in full.
Notifications were also sent in respect of partially allowed and rejected claims, indicating in each case the reason for rejection of a portion or all of the claim, and steps which may be taken if a claimant objects to the decision of the Liquidator and wishes to file an appeal.
LIQUIDATION OF ASSETS
In accordance with section 109(15) of the DBFIA, on December 21, 2018, the Central Bank prescribed procedures for the liquidation of assets of Choice Bank Limited.
Prior to the date of the prescribed procedures, assets of Choice Bank were liquidated based on case-by-case requests for approval made to the Central Bank by the Liquidator.
Choice Bank Limited held the following classes of non-cash assets at liquidation date (balances unaudited):
- Loans and advances, $39.9m;
- Investments, $20.3m;
- Fixed and Intangible Assets, $323k; and
- Other assets, investments and receivables – amounts disputed.
Loans and advances, $39.9m
The Central Bank prescribed a case-by-case or group approach to liquidation of this category of assets, obtaining multiple offers where practicable and seeking its (Central Bank) consent for liquidation of any asset where the proposed settlement price falls below book or carrying value.
The majority of loans are non-performing and the Liquidator has employed legal measures to enforce payments; the Liquidator notes the significant involvement of related parties.
The Liquidator also notes the potential for specific losses in the amount of $9.2m in connection with Choice Bank’s investments in what is alleged, by the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, to be a Ponzi Scheme.
Loans and advances due from employees have been repaid in few instances; the majority remains in arrears. One related party loan was settled with the approval of the Central Bank.
The Central Bank also prescribed a case-by-case approach to the liquidation of investments. The procedures specifically address the Liquidator’s approach to SBIC loan partners, related parties, and proposals of settlement for prices below carrying values.
The Central Bank approved the liquidation of three investments, one of which has been realized in the case of an SBIC investment. Additionally, one investment was forfeited ($85k) as a consequence of Choice Bank’s failure to meet a capital call, prior to liquidation date.
Fixed Assets and Intangible Assets, $323k
The Central Bank prescribed a sale-by-tender approach to liquidation of fixed assets which comprise office furniture, fixtures and equipment; the procedures entail transparency and full accounting for disposal of fixed assets.
Other Assets, Investments and Receivables
Expected inflows from these assets in most cases will be based on final resolution of disputed amounts in respect of certain investments ($23.1m combined, of which $9.8m is claimed), as well as a significant (disputed) balance owing to Choice Bank by a former Card Partner.
In addition to non-cash assets held for realization, the net assets of Choice Bank at liquidation date included cash and bank balances of $29.3m held with various financial institutions in multiple currencies.
Cash balance also comprised a disputed amount of $15.3m held as a collateral balance; settlement was subsequently made with the Liquidator.
Cash balances will form a part of assets to be distributed.
The Liquidator will continue to make best efforts to complete the liquidation of assets in a manner which will result in the most realistic liquidation values within a reasonable time to facilitate the earliest distribution to depositors and creditors, as mandated by the Central Bank in prescribing the procedures.
DISTRIBUTION OF FUNDS
The Liquidator will pay or make reasonable provisions to pay all claims allowed for depositors, creditors, and other claimants of Choice Bank Limited in accordance with the provisions of Section 116 of the DBFIA, which prescribes the payment priority of claims, subject to the factors outlined below.
Statutory Priority of Claims
Unsecured claims against Choice Bank will be paid in accordance with the following priority schedule,
prescribed by Section 116 of the DBFIA:
i. firstly, credits extended to Choice Bank by the Central Bank until the appointment of the Liquidator;
ii. secondly, credits extended to Choice Bank prior to the appointment of the Liquidator and under collateral whose object are Choice Bank’s assets and to the extent of such collateral;
iii. thirdly, the necessary and reasonable expenses incurred by the Liquidator, including professional fees in carrying out his functions;
iv. fourthly, the wages and salaries of the officers and employees of Choice Bank (whether or not earned wholly or in any part by way of commission) including any amount payable by way of allowance or reimbursement under any contract of employment, that accrued during the three months immediately preceding the appointment of the Liquidator, provided that such amount does not exceed five thousand (Belize) dollars;
v. fifthly, all deposits in amounts not exceeding five thousand (Belize) dollars per depositor, respectively;
vi. sixthly, all taxes due and other imports owing to the Government of Belize;
vii. seventhly, the fees, debts and assessments owing to the Central Bank of Belize;
viii. eighthly, credits extended to Choice Bank after the appointment of the Liquidator;
ix. ninthly, all other deposits;
x. tenthly, all other unsecured claims of creditors;
xi. eleventhly, subordinated debt;
xii. twelfthly, late claims;
xiii. finally, shareholders.
On the basis of a request by the Liquidator, the Central Bank extended the filing deadline from October 29, 2018 to October 31, 2018, in order to accommodate for time zone differences.
Claimants who submitted claims after October 31, 2018, determined to be late claims, will be paid after all other claims against Choice Bank have been paid in accordance with Section 116(3) of the DBFIA.
Priority classification for each liquidation category of claim
The Liquidator identified and described, in the Schedule, the various categories of allowed claims against
- Claims on deposits
- Claims on prepaid card balances
- Claims for salaries and wages
- Claims of other creditors.
Unsecured claims allowed were assigned priority of payment in accordance with Section 116(2) of the
DBFIA as follows:
Allowed claims on deposits
Assigned the priority of payment afforded to Claim on Deposits.
Allowed claims on prepaid card balances
Assigned the priority of payment afforded to Claim on Deposits.
Allowed claims on salaries and wages
Assigned the priority afforded to claim on wages and salaries of officers and employees.
Allowed claims of other creditors, (including Independent Consultants)
Allowed claims for priority of payment in this category include the portion of claims of employees not allowed as the fourth priority of payment for unsecured claims, as well claims of Consultants, and all other claims including legal judgments.
Assigned the priority afforded to other unsecured claims of creditors.
Subject to the provisions of the DBFIA, the Liquidator will make a partial distribution to claimants whose claims are undisputed or allowed by the Central Bank, after having established an adequate reserve for the payment of disputed claims.
The account of a depositor was ordered “frozen” by the Supreme Court of Belize on October 6, 2015, prior to liquidation date. Consequently, Choice Bank was restrained from executing any unauthorized transaction on, or releasing any funds from the account. The amount held on this account, $3,597,534.06, will be transferred to the Central Bank, and will not be available for distribution in the liquidation proceedings.
Amount of Distribution
Based on the funds estimated to be available after allocation of the amount ordered frozen by the Supreme Court, the Liquidator proposes to pay US $40.2m as a partial distribution.
Currency and Measurement
Payments will be made in a currency approved by the Central Bank.
Currency conversions in this Schedule were based on unofficial exchange rates for the purpose of providing best estimates. Actual payment amounts may differ and will be based on official rates prevailing at the time of payout.
Order of Distribution
The partial distribution will be paid in accordance with the Priority of Claims classification. All claimants in each class will be paid in full before the next priority class is paid.
Distributions in relation to deposits made further to a statutory purpose
Distribution of funds in respect of claims on deposits which were made further to a statutory purpose will be subject to the directions of the appropriate authority. In absence of such directions, the Liquidator will deposit those amounts with the Central Bank or the appropriate authority.
Depositors with whom contact was not established, combined balance, $70,951
The Liquidator will determine the appropriate amounts to which each of these depositors would have been entitled had a claim been made, and deposit the aggregate amount with the Central Bank to treat with as abandoned property.
Depositors who failed to file claims
No allocations will be made by the Liquidator in case of those depositors who were advised of the liquidation process and failed to file a claim.
Pro Rata Basis for Payments
Where the amount available the pay the claims of any class of claimant is not sufficient to provide payment in full to all claimants in that class, the amount available will be distributed by Liquidator on a pro rata basis among the claimants in that class.
Period of Partial Distribution
The Liquidator proposes to make a partial distribution in or about April, 2019, subject to the approval of the Central Bank. Payments will be made by the methods approved by the Central Bank.
Claims towards Choice Bank arising from Deposits will be set-off against any sum due by a depositor to Choice Bank at liquidation date.
Set-offs will not be allowed in the case of claimants who are not depositors.
Computation and Proposed Distribution
Basis for Payment Allocations
Initial distributions will be made in accordance with the schedule of priority and based on claimed amounts allowed in full, and claimed amounts partially allowed. Rejected amounts for each class of claimants will be set aside, as appropriate, from the amount available for distribution to that class, pending resolution of any objection made to the Central Bank.
Summary of Distribution Allocation by Priority of Claims Partial Distribution Amount: $40,200,000.
NOTES AND EXPLANATION OF TABL
a. The preceding table outlines the distribution of the US $40.2m which the Liquidator proposes to pay as a first distribution to depositors and other creditors
b. This is not a final distribution, but a partial, first distribution.
c. Classes of creditors one (1) through eight (8) will be paid in full from this first distribution on all allowed claims and on claims which are allowed by the Central Bank after hearing objections.
d. Depositors include prepaid cardholders, depositors under the FirstChoice Pay (FCP) program, as well as Choice Bank depositors.
e. Total claims on deposits allowed ($58.2m) and rejected ($17.4m) amounted to $75.644m, which is the amount allocated for this class of claimants.
f. The amount available from the first distribution to pay depositors is $39.733m.
g. Because the $39.733m is not sufficient to pay all depositors in full, depositors will be paid on a pro rata basis, that is, in proportion to all claims on deposits.
h. Depositors will be paid 53% of their allowed claim from this first distribution.
Other Priority Class of Claims
Payments in respect of the tenth, eleventh, and other priority class of claims will not be made from this partial distribution.
Balance for the 9th Priority Class of Claims
Payments from the final distribution will first be made towards settlement of the remaining balance on allowed claims on deposits, 9th priority class of claims, before any other class of unsecured creditors is paid.
A final distribution will be made by the Liquidator as soon as practicable following resolution of legal matters, collection of outstanding receivables, realization of loans and investments, and determination of objection by the Central Bank to any action proposed by the Liquidator in this Schedule.
The assets of Choice which remain after the final distribution to claimants will be distributed by the Liquidator among the shareholders of Choice Bank in proportion to their respective rights.
Any unclaimed funds which remain after the final distribution will be deposited with the Central Bank as abandoned property.
Filed with the Central Bank of Belize on February 28, 2019.
Liquidator – Choice Bank Limited
Summary information extracted from the Appendix Section of the Schedule follows.
Schedule of Actions Proposed For the Winding-up of Choice Bank
Unofficial Currency Conversion Table
Summary of Claims by Allowed Status
Claim on Salaries and Wages - 4th Priority of Claims
Claim on Deposits of $5,000 or less ($2,500 US equivalent) - 5th Priority of Claims
Deposits include prepaid card balances
Claim on Other Deposits - 9th Priority of Claims
Deposits include prepaid card balances and card partners collateral balances