Governor Lolo apologizes to BoH for actions of previous administration
The Lolo Administration has appealed to the Bank of Hawai’i’s corporate office to delay their departure from the local market, which has been served by the Honolulu-based financial institution for more than three decades. His letter includes an apology to the bank for litigations of previous administration.
BoH has given its customers until this Friday (Feb. 15) to close their accounts or transfer them to the main branch in Honolulu, with the two local branches to be officially closed on Mar. 15. The bank is slated to close its doors in the territory, next month, on March 15.
Last week, Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga wrote to the BoH chief operating officer David W. Thomas seeking a 12-month delay, saying that his administration has only taken office since Jan. 3 this year.
At the outset of the letter, Lolo informed Thomas that “I have directed” the new attorney general “to cease and desist in all litigation involving” Marisco Ltd, as plaintiff, ASG as defendant and BoH as garnishee of ASG funds that were deposited with BoH.
This is both in the federal court and the High Court of American Samoa, he said.
“My administration took this step because we do not believe the actions of our predecessors reflect the way we should be doing business,” Lolo wrote and noted that his administration “intends to pay its bills in a timely manner, and does not intend to use the courts to avoid our just debts, nor use the courts to delay paying them in order to help manage our cash flow.”
Lolo shared, that “we deeply regret the negative impact the actions of the previous administration have had on the government’s valued relationship” with BoH and his administration “particularly regret the reputational risk implications to the bank of some of the things that were said and done in court.”
“On behalf of my administration and the people of American Samoa, we extend our apologies to you, your people and your institution,” he wrote.
Lolo says that while ASG recognizes the BoH decision is not going to be reversed and ASG respects the reasons the bank has chosen to leave, “what we do ask is if the bank would consider delaying its exit in order to smooth our transition into the future.”
The governor, who also said “we will be sorry to see you go", pointed out that the territory will be left with only the ANZ Amerika Samoa Bank, a branch of ANZ Guam, a subsidiary of the ANZ Banking Group.
“ANZ is some 12 months away from being able to offer some of the services now provided by the Bank of Hawaii to the government, businesses and people of American Samoa,” he notes.
“ANZ, by its own admission is having difficulty in timely processing customer account movements across from your local branch, will not initially be able to offer the government and business community payroll process, and has no VISA brand debit or credit card product,” said Lolo.
Samoa News understands that this information from the governor followed information he received from ANZ.
Regarding payroll processing by ANZ, Samoa News learned last week of this issue, following a Jan. 29 e-mail from the American Samoa Community College Finance Department to its staff regarding “direct-deposit”. ANZ holds the ASCC payroll account.
The email states that ANZ will not be able to provide direct deposit for off-island bank accounts but they are able to provide direct deposits services into all ANZ accounts. ASCC have since provided for its staff the ANZ package form to open a bank account with ANZ.
According to a separate ANZ e-mail to ASCC, a bank official says ANZ is unable to add this service for off-island bank direct deposit “until we have adjusted our systems to accommodate this service.”
The ASG payroll account is currently held by BoH, which also processes the ASG payroll.
Samoa News notes that one of the biggest problems with establishing a business account with the BoH, is that it will reside in the State of Hawai’i and a Hawai’i business license is required. The account, as such, is subject to all of the state’s applicable rules and regulations, which possibly includes paying Hawai’i state and federal taxes on the account.
In his letter to BoH, the governor says ANZ is a fine organization and “we have confidence that in due course we will sort through the challenges”, but BoH “has been ‘our bank’ for an awfully long time” and would like to continue this relationship for some additional period of time in order to ease the transition.
“Knowing what we now do about the ANZ capacities, we would ask your departure be delayed for 12 months. While we hardly think that is realistic, perhaps some shorter extension of your branch closure could be considered,” he wrote.
Regardless of the outcome of the request, Lolo reiterated that the government and people of American Samoa “value our relationship” with BoH and thank the bank for its many years of service in the territory.