Taberna vs. EastWest Bank case is litmus test for new Financial Products and Services Consumer Protection Act

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BROADCASTING CONTRACTOR Anthony Taberna continues to hope for a just resolution of his case against EastWest Bank, which he accused before the central bank of allowing unauthorized funds transfers – a total of 15.38 million pesos – to the former financial manager of the successful food company he had built for years.

The Taberna case is seen as a litmus test of regulators’ willingness to strictly enforce the new Law on the protection of consumers of financial products and servicesthat regulators like Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) and the Securities and Exchange Commission, had actively pushed the 18th Congress to pass, citing more than 40,000 financial consumer complaints between 2019 and 2021.

Taberna previously pressed the BSP to act on its administrative complaint against EastWest and Gualberto Baluyut, the manager of its UP Village branch, for allowing Ernie Patrick Aquino, its former chief financial officer, to siphon off millions without its knowledge and without his consent in a series of unauthorized operations. fund transfers between August 2018 and November 2020.

This was apparently done because, as Taberna alleged in his complaint affidavit, Aquino – after convincing Taberna to open a payroll account with the UP Village branch for Taberna Foods under the credit facility electronics from EastWest – was able to open seven more bank accounts under Taberna Food. This, without submitting to the bank a certificate of the secretary or a resolution of the council.

“Baluyut authorized the opening of all accounts notwithstanding that they belonged to different branches of Ka Tunying’s Café across Luzon. Despite the lack of authority and supporting documents, Baluyut authorized the opening of these accounts in clear violation of current banking regulations,” Taberna said, referring to the EastWest official.

A subsequent review indicated that many transfers were made on random dates outside of pay periods, even though it was a payroll service. As head of finance, Aquino, Taberna pointed out, had no authority to approve fund transfers beyond payroll payments.

Baluyut in his counter-affidavit denied all of Taberna’s allegations, insisting that he only knew Aquino when the latter approached him to open the payroll account, contrary to Taberna’s claim that Aquino persuaded him to open the account because he knew the branch manager well.

Taberna said earlier that the bank was included in the complaint against BSP because it never informed the client company of the apparent impropriety.

The administrative complaint filed by Taberna is being handled by the BSP’s Office of Consumer Protection and Market Conduct, which the broadcast reporter earlier called for inaction in his case more than a year after it was filed.

Efforts by the media to get a response from PASB have so far gone unanswered.

Still, Taberna reportedly said earlier that he might consider withdrawing the criminal case he filed in court if that’s the only thing stopping the central bank from presiding over a process to resolve the case he’s filed. filed with her.

The 18th Congress precipitated the passage of the Financial Products and Services Consumer Protection Act, signed into law on May 6, 2022 by then-President Rodrigo Duterte.

During congressional deliberations, officials from the BSP and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) had urged lawmakers to rush its passage to give them a broader arsenal to fight financial fraud and misconduct by financial institutions, including including banks.

Then BSP Governor (now Secretary of Finance) Benjamin Diokno, appearing before the Senate Banking Committee, urged senators to quickly pass the measure, which he said will “protect every Juan and Maria transacting.” financial”. As things stand, he said, regulators like BSP, SEC and the Insurance Commission have limited means to go after wrongdoers or those who abuse consumers of financial products, including bank deposits. .

BSP, in fact, was inundated with so many complaints – 42,456 – in 2020 and 2021; and the cumulative total of the sums involved in the complaints from 2019 to 2021 amounts to 2 billion pesos, Diokno told the senators then.

Picture credits: Walter Eric Sy | Dreamstime.com

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