Billions of dollars have left Colombian banks since InterBolsa’s liquidation, according to a Tuesday report from Bloomberg News.
Nearly two weeks ago, government regulators essentially shut down the country’s largest brokerage firm after it failed to make a payment on an $11 million loan due to risky transactions that left the financial giant short on cash. As a result, financial regulators freezed trading of InterBolsa stock for six days.
Colombia’s Financial Minister Mauricio Cardenas reassured the public by saying that InterBolsa’s problems were unique and not indicative of a “systemwide weakness.” Colombia’s Director of Public Credit Maria Fernanda Suarez admitted, however, that “a situation like…InterBolsa created levels of uncertainty much higer than what we had previous[ly expected]…The reading I have is that a lot of bank treasuries and many institutional investors have said for now, ‘I’ll stay put.'”
Last week, the Colombian government formally announced that they were launching a criminal investigation againt InterBolsa to see if its downfall also included tax evasion, a failure to disclose public information and stock manipulation. InterBolsa’s President, Rodrigo Jaramillo, was quick to assure that there is no evidence to believe any “irregularities” or “conflict[s] of interest” took place during the company’s collapse.
President Juan Manuel Santos consistently told InterBolsa investors that they would not feel the brunt of the liquidiation crisis. Last week it was reported that investors were to start receiving cash reimbursements from the failed brokerage firm beginning on Monday. The auditor in charge of overseeing the liquidation process determined that the brokerage firm had nearly $4 billion on hand and of that, $44 million was to be equitably dispersed so that “all customer accounts [are] returned.”
Despite the instability, unscrupulousness, or cloudiness hovering over Colombia’s financial markets, the World Bank recently approved a $200 million loan to the country because of its “good fiscal management.”
Colombia’s largest bank, Bancolombia, took over InterBolsa’s troubled bond trading wing two weeks ago and thus supposedly restored investor confidence as Colombia’s peso recorded its highest spike in months.
Confined or not, the failure of the country’s largest brokerage firm has made an international splash. David Olivares, an analyst at Moody’s Standard & Poor’s on Tuesday commended Bancolombia’s move, calling it “a sensible reaction.” Olivares then qualified his statement saying, “It’s difficult to know if there’ll be more cases. We can’t rule it out.”