PRESIDENT Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. has appointed his adviser on investments and economic affairs, Rafael D. Consing, Jr., as chief executive officer (CEO) and president of the Maharlika Investment Corp. (MIC), which the government hopes to be fully operational before the end of the year.
Some observers said the move only confirms speculations that the rules for the Philippines’ first sovereign wealth fund were revised to pave the way for Mr. Consing’s appointment.
A Palace statement described Mr. Consing as “well-versed in global corporate governance and has had a successful transition from regional investment banking to senior corporate management and government advisory.”
Mr. Consing was appointed the executive director of the Office of the Presidential Adviser for Investment and Economic Affairs (OPAIEA) in January. Prior to this, he was chief financial officer and compliance officer at the Razon-led International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (ICTSI).
As MIC president and CEO, he will “manage and invest” the initial and future contributions to the Philippines’ first sovereign wealth fund. He will have to establish a diversified portfolio of investments and other assets that align with the Maharlika fund’s objectives.
“(Mr. Consing) is an accomplished, results-driven, and multi-awarded C-level executive with a profound depth of experience in corporate governance, mergers and acquisitions, corporate finance, global capital markets, stakeholder relations, and business strategy development,” the Palace said.
Mr. Consing worked at ICTSI for 15 years, serving as its vice-president and treasurer in the first nine years. He was awarded Treasurer of the Philippines at The Asset’s Triple A Transaction Banking Award in 2011.
He also worked at the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corp. Limited (HSBC Hong Kong), where he served as managing director from 2005 to 2007. He also worked at HSBC Singapore as managing director and head of debt finance group from 2003 to 2005, and HSBC Philippines as head of its debt finance group from 1999 to 2003.
Mr. Consing also worked at the Bankers Trust Company as vice-president for corporate finance (1997-1999); ING Barings, N.V. as vice-president for corporate finance (1996-1997); Aboitiz & Co., Inc. and Aboitiz Equity Ventures, Inc. as vice-president and treasurer (1995-1996); and Multinational Bancorporation as vice-president for capital markets (1989-1993).
Mr. Consing graduated with a political science degree from De La Salle University.
“Maharlika is at the crossroads of finance, development, and public administration. Mr. Consing has a strong background in all three areas,” House Ways and Means Committee Chair Jose Maria Clemente S. Salceda said in a statement.
He said Mr. Consing, as executive director of OPAIEA, had worked with lawmakers in crafting the amendments to the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises Act and the Public-Private Partnership Code.
Enrico P. Villanueva, a senior lecturer at the University of the Philippines Los Baños, said Mr. Consing “may do good” since he was immersed in capital markets early in his career.
But “someone with more extensive and direct experience in fund or asset management would have been preferred,” he said in a Facebook Messenger chat. “After all, that post has been politicized.”
Before Mr. Consing’s appointment, Mr. Marcos ordered the suspension of the Maharlika Investment Fund’s (MIF) implementing rules and regulations (IRR) to make revisions, raising speculations that the move may be aimed at allowing the President to have greater say on the choice of the MIC’s top executives.
The revised IRR was released at the weekend, removing requirements that the holder of the post now assumed by Mr. Consing should have an “advanced degree in finance, economics, business administration or a related field from a reputable university.”
House Deputy Minority leader and ACT Teachers Party-list Rep. France L. Castro said the appointment was “tailor-made” since Mr. Consing could have failed in meeting one of the original requirements.
“It seems that the IRR of the Maharlika Investment Fund Law was revised apparently to enable the appointment of Consing,” she said in a statement.
“A ‘leadership program’ is not an advanced degree,” she said, referring to Mr. Consing’s completion of the Stanford University Graduate School of Business’s Strategic Financial Leadership Program in 2016.
‘WITHIN THE BOUNDS OF LAW’
Meanwhile, the Department of Finance (DoF) assured that the revisions made to the IRR of the MIF are well within the limits of the law.
“The enhancements introduced by the IRR are all within the bounds of the law, meant to give full meaning to the establishment of a strong corporate governance structure,” the department said in a statement on Monday.
“In particular, the IRR’s emphasis on ensuring the independence of the board of directors of the MIC allows it more headroom to form credible oversight and risk management bodies while upholding the highest standards of effective fund management,” it added.
Among the changes made to the IRR include allowing the President to accept or reject nominations for the vacant board positions and removing additional qualifications for the MIC president and CEO, independent directors, and dependent directors.
“(The IRR’s) finalization comes at an opportune time as investors, both local and international, have signified in several investor promotion engagements their robust interest in the country’s first-ever sovereign wealth fund,” the DoF said.
The DoF said that the revision of the IRR shows the administration’s commitment to “see the fund off and running by the end of the year.” — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza and Luisa Maria Jacinta C. Jocson