Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Legacy Bank Mess: An Expose of PDIC (Part 1)

The legacy mess created by Celso de los Angeles has once again rocked the already ailing preneed industry. The sudden closure last December, 2009 of Legacy Consolidated plans and its two affiliated preneed companies added an estimated 30,000 victims to the legion of planholders holding useless educational and pension plans. Although this development spelled more bad news for the floundering preneed industry, it was not unfamiliar to the public that had experienced years ago the closure of CAP, Pacific Plans, and several other companies in the business. If for anything, legacy plans had just delivered the final blow on a moribund industry.

What is insidious and potentially catastrophic is the deleterious effect of the collapse of the legacy banks on public confidence and faith in the banking system. Surprisingly, it is not Celso that is the villain in this unfolding scenario that is fraught with serious negative implications for the country's rural banking sector. The Philippine Deposit Insurance Corporation was established in 1963 with a single overriding mandate – to ensure public confidence in the banking industry. This is achieved by providing all depositors in all banks with an insurance coverage of P250,000; and second, by acting as the ‘receiver’ of failed or closed banks. Up until the closure of several legacy banks, PDIC has been faithfully fulfilling its current overall mandate “to provide depositor protection and strengthen public confidence in the banking system.” Hundreds of banks have closed and been declared insolvent since PDCI was created, but it had remained the faithful guardian and guarantor of the depositors’ money.

The PDIC Occasional Paper No. 1 2005 mentioned that “notwithstanding problems arising from the poor quality of record-keeping, PDIC’s continuing efforts at expeditious settlement of claims has paid off in terms of a shorter period of time for payouts. The average number of days to start payouts from date of closure has improved from 289 calendar days in 1993 to 41 calendar days in 2002, and single digit levels beginning 2003.” However, this progress is all set to be reversed and retrogress with the convoluted manner that PDIC is now conducting the filing, verification, processing and payout of legacy bank claims. It is twisting and bending its own policy, rules and regulations, and conjuring a new set of procedures that are tedious and time-consuming. Since the closure of the legacy banks before mid-December of 2008, PDIC President Jose Nograles defends its actions by explaining in numerous press releases that PDIC just wants to make sure that only “legitimate depositors” are paid because bank officials have not only lost banks records but created fictitious accounts. We understand the need for precautions but it seems that Nograles, reading his innumerable sound-and-print bites, would rather not pay the depositor who in good faith banked his hard-earned money than risk paying a fraudulent claim. As of now, almost 150 days since the closure of banks, only a miniscule percentage of depositors have been paid. None of the 100k accounts above, which account for about 75 percent of the total 135,000 accounts, have been paid. PDIC had previously adhered to the necessity of prompt payment of insured deposit claims, not only to maintain credibility and confidence in the deposit insurance system but just as important, to help eliminate possible contagion effects of closure. So why would PDIC, under the leadership of Jose Nograles, deliberately ruin its excellent track record of single digit days payout and run the real risk of eroding public confidence? The answer is both political and financial but before we delve into the dark motives of powerful men and hidden interests of big commercial institutions, we first need to expose the myths and propaganda that PDIC is peddling to the general public.

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