Fiscal board publishes first report on Puerto Rico’s debt
SAN JUAN – Puerto Rico’s financial control board published Monday the first report on the investigation underway by law firm Kobre & Kim into the commonwealth’s debt.
“The Independent Investigator has identified potential witnesses, subjects, and targets, and causes of action, and is working to preserve relevant evidence,” reads the document dated Oct. 30.
The report states that 84 notifications of document preservation have already been sent in relation to public debt issuances made in the past 20 years. Issuing entities, advisers, credit rating companies and underwriting institutions, among others, have received them.
Of the 84 notifications, 79 “witnesses” confirmed they have already taken measures to preserve the documents, as requested by the investigator.
“In sum, a large majority of the witnesses have expressed a willingness to cooperate in the investigation, and produce documents and information on a voluntary basis,” Kobre & Kim says in its report.
However, the document mentions that, on Oct. 27, subpoenas for information were issued for Popular Inc., Popular Securities and Banco Popular de Puerto Rico. The report does not detail what documents are required of the financial institution.
Kobre & Kim was retained on Sept. 1 to investigate all the factors that triggered the fiscal crisis in Puerto Rico, as well as all public debt transactions the government has made, as requested by the board. This includes the practices employed in the purchase and sale of Puerto Rico and its public corporations’ bonds, and the associated disclosures to market participants.
On Oct. 18, the board turned the probe into a formal procedure, as defined by its investigation protocol, given the need to use subpoenas to carry out the effort.
The board’s special committee overseeing the investigation–formed by Ana Matosantos, David Skeel and Arthur González–approved on Oct. 11 the initial plan developed by the firm. In consultation with the three board members, Kobre & Kim established the objectives of the investigation, as well as the areas to be examined and their priority level.
To date, the firm has examined documentation related to public debt issuances since 1990, the government’s certified fiscal plan and a government liquidity analysis conducted by accounting firm and board adviser Ernst & Young. Documents have also been requested of Puerto Rico’s Fiscal Agency and Financial Advisory Authority.
So far, the firm has held meetings with several people related to the board, including law firm Proskauer Rose, Ernst & Young, and ethics and risk adviser Andrea Bonime-Blanc. Likewise, it said it has met with lawyers from the official committees that represent retirees and unsecured creditors in the Puerto Rico bankruptcy cases under Title III of Promesa.
“As a result of these meetings, the Independent Investigator has already gathered substantial facts and evidence that are readily available and helpful in providing scope to the investigation and its timing,” Kobre & Kim’s report reads.
The firm said it does not expect to have a final report until the end of March, and warned it may be delayed due to the complications that could arise in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. The special investigators assured they are accommodating witness’ requests such as extensions to document-delivery dates.
The report also indicates that priority in the investigation has focused on those aspects that affect electricity and water services and other critical infrastructure affected by the major hurricane.
During its 10th public meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, the fiscal board will discuss the debt’s investigation, according to the agenda published Monday.