WATCH | Amid P900-M fraud probe, Gokongwei firm keeps trust in George Ty’s Metrobank

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A Metrobank branch. InterAksyon file photo

MANILA – From one tycoon to another. The Gokongwei-owned Universal Robina Corp. affirmed Friday its confidence that George Ty’s Metrobank will do right by URC and other parties that may have been among the victims of a scam allegedly perpetrated by a bank executive who has since been arrested.

“We are aware that URC and its account at Metrobank have been mentioned in an apparent internal Metrobank issue involving fraud. Even as Metrobank continues to conduct an internal investigation on the matter, we would like to assure everyone that URC will not incur any financial loss whatsoever and that the integrity and security of URC and its active accounts at Metrobank remain unaffected by the said incident,” read a statement sent by URC to media outlets.

Metrobank had earlier given assurances that no customer was affected in this incident. “In the context of the bank’s P1.9 trillion financial resources, rest assured that we continue to operate business as usual for the bank and our customers.”

URC thanked Metrobank President Fabian Dee “for giving us heads up advice on this unfortunate development and his assurance that URC will not be financially impacted in any way by this incident.”

URC is the first major account-holder to express confidence that Metrobank will get to the bottom of the case, after the bank confirmed one of its officials had been found allegedly involved in a scheme that reportedly funnels disbursed loans into fake accounts.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas is investigating the matter, and the House Committee on Banks has also served notice it will open an inquiry.

Nonetheless, URC said Friday its faith in its bank remains unshaken: “We take this occasion to also reiterate our confidence with Metrobank as we continue to conduct regular, business as usual transactions with them.”

Metrobank assures public, clients

Metrobank earlier issued this statement, and gave a similar advisory to the Philippine Stock Exchange:

“Upon our own discovery, the Bank immediately caused the arrest of the individual involved in this case, who has been detained by the authorities since Monday.

“The Bank is reinforcing its commitment to the highest standards of integrity and upholds the protection of its customers as its main priority. No customer has been affected in this incident. In the context of the Bank’s P 1.9 trillion financial resources, rest assured that we continue to operate business as usual for the bank and our customers.

“The Bank cannot further comment on the case as it has already been filed.”

According to BSP Governor Nestor Espenilla, all banks are supposed to have sound internal controls to ensure funds don’t get waylaid.

BSP focusing on internal controls

The BSP probe will focus on whether or not such internal systems at Metrobank were adequate to guard against crime.

“It’s too soon to talk about those things. We first have to establish facts. Our banks have their natural internal controls precisely to prevent these things from happening. So we will have to look into the adequacy of those controls; if in fact a significant crime happened within the bank,” said Espenilla.

The BSP chief is confident the public perception of the bank will not be gravely dented because Metrobank has a solid reputation. It is stable and is one of the country’s largest; hence, even if the sums involved in the fraud are big, such will not derail the bank’s operations.

“These things happen. They’re isolated. And banks, as I’ve said, are well capitalized that’s why banks have controls so that these kind of things can be mitigated and withstood. No system is perfect, but the bank is expected to be resilient to these things. And I have no concern that the bank can’t handle these things.”

Underscoring the financial armor of Metrobank, Espenilla noted that “it made more than P16 billion last year, so I mean this is very unfortunate but they have to deal with it.

Metrobank said its Vice President for Corporate Services Mari Victoria Lopez had been detained at the National Bureau of Investigation since Monday.

She is described as the executive who transferred loan disbursements to a fake account that misused the name of the bank’s legitimate client, URC.

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