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Kpebu, Simons take government on over debt exchange

BY: Kwame Larweh
Mr Martin Kpebu
Mr Martin Kpebu

Private Legal Practitioner, Martin Kpebu is leading about 200 individual investors to engage the government over the inclusion of individual bondholders in the debt exchange programme.

Mr. Kpebu noted that these investors do not want any haircut on their matured investments.

Speaking in a radio interview monitored by the Graphic Business, he said a class action lawsuit against government will follow if negotiations fail.

A notice inviting affected individuals to join the class action suit described the government’s decision as “unconscionable”. It said, “Government cannot be allowed to use its might to impoverish Ghanaians.”

It would be recalled that days after the government announced the exclusion of pension funds in the debt exchange programme, it decided to include individual bondholders.

Individual investors were initially not part of the domestic debt restructuring. However, the exemption of pension funds from the programme triggered the inclusion of individual investors.

“Expanding the type of investors that can participate in the Exchange to now include Individual Investors”, a statement from the Finance Ministry indicated an amendment to the terms of the domestic exchange programme was then announced after individual investors were included.

Individual bondholders now have until January 16 to sign up for the debt exchange programme or be in default.

Meanwhile three groups representing individual bondholders have commenced mobilisation to file legal suits against the government for including individual bondholders in the Debt Exchange Programme.  The Vice President of IMANI Ghana, Bright Simons who revealed this to the media disclosed that one such groups is led by a former boss of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The Finance Ministry had earlier cautioned individual holders of eligible bonds who refuse to take the Amended and Restated Exchange Memorandum under the Debt Exchange Programme provided by the State that they will find it difficult to obtain a judgement against the Government of Ghana.

Under a caption labelled “Enforcement of Civil Liabilities” in the 58 page Amended and Restated Exchange Memorandum to individual bondholders, Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta emphasised that since Ghana is a sovereign state, any legal action taken by bondholders against the country would be difficult to materialise.

“The Republic of Ghana is a sovereign state. Consequently, it may be difficult for Eligible Holders of Eligible Bonds to obtain or realise awards against the Republic”.

“The Republic has submitted to the jurisdiction of the courts of Ghana and waived any immunity from the jurisdiction (including sovereign immunity) of such courts in connection with any action arising out of or based upon the Invitation to Exchange or any securities issued under the Invitation to Exchange brought by any holder of such securities,” it added.

But in a tweet, Mr. Simons said “it was anticipated that adding individual/retail investors to Ghana’s debt default will increase the risk of litigation. At least 3 groups representing individual bondholders have commenced mobilisation to file class action lawsuits. One group is led by a former SEC boss.”