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Fono Report

Rendering of proposed new Fono Building [SN file photo]

The Fono will be taking a four-week mid session recess starting at the close of business today and will reconvene on Mar. 12, in order preserve legislative session days for the most efficient use, according to the Fono approved concurrent resolutions calling for the recess.

Both the Senate and House approved each other’s concurrent resolution for the recess this week, although there are pending bills in both chambers including those sponsored by lawmakers as well as one important one from the Lolo Administration that would allow the formation of Limited Liability Company (LLC) entities in American Samoa.

The LLC, which is one of the revenue measures the administration submitted to the Fono last August, provides owners with advantages of corporate limited liability status and partnership tax treatment, and allows owners — both local and foreign — to register limited liability companies through the Treasury Department.

Samoa News is aware of at least three US based companies that are monitoring the outcome of this 115-page bill. Based on inquiries received by Samoa News, it appears that these companies are looking at setting up operations in the territory, if the bill is enacted into law.

Also approved this week by both chambers, is a Senate Concurrent Resolution, which expresses overwhelming gratitude and appreciation of the government and people of American Samoa to chairman, president and chief executive officer, Peter S. Ho and the Bank of Hawaii Corporation for:

•     47 years of service in the territory and contribution to the development of the local economy;

•     for gifting to the American Samoa Government all Bank of Hawaii’s assets in the territory, including two housing units, the Tafuna branch and its contents, and all assets contained in the Centennial Building first floor, along with newly installed ATM machines; and

•     most importantly, manifesting and demonstrating your corporate character of placing people before profit by your commitment to remain indefinitely in the territory until a replacement bank was in place.

The non-binding resolution, sponsored by Sens. Nuanuaolefeagaiga Saoluaga T. Nua, Fa’amausili Mau Mau Jr., and Magalei Logovi’i, comes more than a month after the Territorial Bank of American Samoa was assigned a transit routing number by the American Bankers Association.

And this week, TBAS president Philip Ware said the bank is now at work setting up its “master account” with the Federal Reserve Bank, and this is the second step needed for the government owned bank to move forward with rolling out its services and products. (See yesterday’s front page for details)

BoH and Ho have long promised the Lolo Administration that it would not fully close its local operations until TBAS is fully operational.

It remains unclear as to how long BoH will remain on island once TBAS is fully operational and this has been a big question from many customers who continue to maintain accounts at BoH.

However, industry officials estimated that it will take several months, because BoH will need to file a certain notice with federal regulators that it was ending businesses in American Samoa by closing down its Tafuna operation.

“And this process with federal regulators does take time as there is also a public comment period involved,” said one industry official, who provided only background information on banking regulations. “In order words, if TBAS becomes fully operational, it doesn’t mean, BoH will depart right away. There is a federal process to follow.”

BoH is federally insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which is one regulator that gets notification from BoH, according to the official.