HOW BANKPHB LOST N7BILLION TO THE USA SUBPRIME CRISES

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BankPHB may have lost the equivalence of N7billion directly to the United States of America’s property sector crises. Sources in the bank informed Fortune and Class Weekly that the bank had excitedly approved a proposal by one of its customers that wanted to invest in the USA’s property market in the aftermath of the subprime crises when prices of property started sliding.

The source confided that the customer had argued when the downward spiral of the USA’s property market commenced in its first phase that taking position in the sector by investing when prices had gone down would provide ample opportunities for profit taking. The customer who is said to be familiar with the USA’s property market asserted that the price slide would only last a short while.

To position in the property market by investing when prices initially dipped, the customer asked for a N14billion facility and approval was given. “It turned out that soon after the N14billion was invested, property prices literally went on a free fall. By the time the facility was called in, the value of the N14billion investment was in the region of N7billion.” The BankPHB insider said.

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BANK MDs TROOP TO FIRST BANK FOR BAIL-OUT…FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS REJECT SHARES AND PROPERTY AS COLLATERAL

First Bank of Nigeria might have become the unofficial lender of last resort for many banks currently experiencing liquidity problems. A bank is said to experience liquidity crisis when it can not support its short term obligation to its customers by itself. Thus to continue to serve the needs of its customers, the bank may have a recourse to another commercial bank which may lend it the short term fund, usually for a period of between seven days and 90 days.

Traditionally, the Central Bank of Nigeria is supposed to be the lender of last resort for banks and other financial institutions, but FORTUNE&CLASS cross checks in the banking industry showed that rather than many commercial banks approach the CBN to augment their liquidity position, most of the banks managing directors opted to seek the support of the management of First Bank to provide short term funding support for their operations.

“I can tell you that most of the banks managing directors, these even include so called first tier (banks that are supposed to have more than a billion dollar capital base) troop to First Bank to negotiate funding support.” A banking industry insider said.

The option of adopting First Bank in the rather unusual role of a lender of last resort might not be unconnected with many commercial banks efforts to shy away from the official channel of funding provided by the CBN so as not to be labeled as desperate to survive and consequently provide ammunition for the de-marketing campaigners that are going around the sector, insinuating the parlous state of health of some banks on account of their liquidity position.

“It is easy for bankers to know who is applying for what with the CBN.” A senior banker said. “But negotiating and securing funds from a colleague banking institution has all the trappings of confidentiality and utmost secrecy. So, I think, these other banks would rather prefer to relate with First Bank on the inter-bank lending platform. At least, there is nothing illegal about that and as far as they are concerned, other practitioners and the public are not privy to these negotiations.” The banker explained.

Though the inter-bank lending platform is an organic relationship channel in the banking industry, however, concerned members of the board of directors of the bank are becoming quite uneasy with the load of demands from other banks.

A source in First Bank informed that the bank is becoming more serious with risks control measures.

“This is not a recent development. First Bank has been experiencing a deluge of demands for lending from other banks over the last six to seven months. I think that at one of the board of directors meeting, board members directed the management team to be more circumspect about their lending to these other banks.” A First Bank insider revealed.

The irony of banks seeking out bridging funds for their operations is not limited to beseeching First Bank, the industry is already abuzzed with banks chasing after deposits from the banking public in preference to approaching the CBN. The unofficial explanation for this action has the same texture with the one given by insiders for the First Bank option. Banks, industry sources said, would rather prefer to go after deposits in the public domain than to approach the CBN where data of their application for funding could be used against them when the CBN make public such data.

On the whole, nerves are gradually getting on the edge in the banking industry as interest rates and other related data show an escalation that are, increasingly becoming alarming signals.

“Even the illiterate can read the signs.” Ori Adeyemo, a forensic accountant said. “These banks are chasing after deposits with tempting offers beyond the market rate, they are not bothered with the implication for the cost of funds both to their operations and to the borrowers. Of course, we know that they are only interested in making their liquidity position look good as their different year end draw to a close. Despite the figures the CBN make public, you won’t believe that interest rate and other charges for loan in many banks are adding to about 34 percent of the loan offered. And that is where the borrower is lucky to get a bank to provide the loan. The simple truth is that lending activities have reduced significantly. That is a fact.” Ori argued.

The general impact on the liquidity position may have been further indicated with the considerable increase in the Nigerian Inter Bank Offer Rate (NIBOR) (the NIBOR is the rate at which banks lend short term funds to each other) CBN data on the NIBOR as at the preceding week, released last week, showed that the 7-day NIBOR at the inter bank market transactions increased by 123 basis point to close at 18.14 percent from the week before figure of 16.92 percent.

The 90-day NIBOR also closed higher in the same period from 17.42 percent to 17.96 percent.

“Is it not clear that there is a situation in the banking industry if banks are lending to themselves at these high rates? You can imagine what rate they will lend to their customers. Even at that, it is becoming increasingly difficult for some banks to secure funds from the inter-bank lending platform because the strong banks are considering exposures to them as highly risky.” Bisi Iyaniwura, a lawyer with specialized practice in banking and corporate law said.

Meanwhile, it has been revealed that some financial institutions now reject collaterals in the form of shares and property and even treasury bills as securities for loans.

“FORTUNE&CLASS gathered that a second tier bank had approached a discount seeking its (discount house) assistance to secure a N150 million short term fund for its operations. However, after the discount house which is a subsidiary of a another first tier bank sought the position of its principal, the first tier bank rejected all the traditional forms of securities like shares, treasury bills and property the fund seeking bank was willing to provide.

“This, ultimately, foreclosed the funding negotiation.” A source privy to the negotiation informed that the discount house demanded for trading securities.

“They said they would prefer collateral that can be easily turned to cash like goods in warehouses and some other strange stuffs.” The source informed.

STANBIC IBTC BANK AFFIRMS BANKING INDUSTRY’s HIDDEN CHARGES

Have you watched the recent couple eating out at a restaurant television commercial of Stanbic IBTC? The television commercial is quite entertaining what with the embarrassment the couple had to endure at the restaurant. But, in fact, the message of the television commercial is succinct enough; it tells of the hidden charges to services rendered at the restaurant. You only need to translate the message to what obtains in the banking industry and you get the intention and direction of the message. While confirming the pervasiveness of hidden charges in banks credit and services offered to their customers, the StanbicIBTC television commercial message affirms that the bank does not engage in the unsavoury conduct of padding up customers’ charges with undefined hidden charges.  

Delay of Public Offer Returned Money: Wema Registrars Accuses Access Bank of Forgery, Manipulation

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Mr. Gbenga Oyebode (SAN) Chairman of the Board of Access Bank Plc was intent at justifying his bank’s decision to change its registrars, so, he announced to shareholders gathered at the venue of the bank’s 2008 Annual General Meeting that because his bank was dissatisfied with the services of its former registrars, Wema Registrars, over the handling of its last public offer, Access Bank decided to jettison the registrars services of Wema Registrars for a new registrars firm, United Securities Limited.

That public condemnation of the services rendered by Wema Registrars sent a surge of outcries through the ranks of personnel at Wema Registrars culminating in a formal protest to the management of Access Bank and a threat to head for the court of law if the libelous condemnation of Wema Registrars as contained and read by the Chairman of Access Bank at the last AGM was not retrieved and apologies offered. Wema Registrars threatened to sue for a redress of N.5billion if Access Bank refused to address its demands.

Will this be the torrid end to a business relationship that had flourished for close to a decade? Those that have followed events that marked the relationship between the bank and registrars say a legal battle may truly be imminent especially in consideration of the disdain with which Access Bank had dealt with its erstwhile registrars even up to the point of demanding an apology for the public hacking of the quality of services rendered it (Access Bank) by Wema Registrars.

“Wema Registrars was not going to make a fuss over the ways Access Bank had conducted its public offer. As far as we are concerned, we’ve done a good job of even saving them from present sanction by the Securities and Exchange Commission for the many breaches of regulatory compliance guidelines relating to public offer allotment and returned monies.” A Wema Registrars insider says.

“Of course we knew they had decided that they were going to establish their own registrars firm, this was clearly stated in their public offer prospectus, we couldn’t have been bothered, it is their right, but what I think is not right is for them to hang our reputation on a bad name in the public to justify and cover up their manipulations of their own public offer. I don’t think this is appropriate for a financial institution that wished to be respected.” The source protests.

Historically, Wema Registrars had managed registrars related functions for Access Bank since 22 December, 1997, it (Wema Registrars) was in charge of the bank’s first public offer in 1998 where the bank raised the sum of N462,000,000 mainly through 5,347 subscribers. And had since then, managed three other public offers (2001, 2004 and the now controversial 2007). Wema Registrars also handled the bank’s 2001 right issue and 2006 bond issue as well as the share reconstruction exercises between Access Bank, Capital International Bank and Marina International Bank in the run up to the consolidation of the bank.

So, why did the management of the bank’s 2007 public offer turn such a sore point in the relationship between the bank and the registrars?

Another Wema Registrars source argues that this could be adduced to the bank’s desperation to manipulate the offer proceeds and conveniently use Wema Registrars as the fall guy if the regulatory authority smelt the rat, and as things turned out, to also use their (Access Bank) own deliberate obfuscation of the offer allotment and returned monies process as good excuses to persuade shareholders and regulatory authorities of their need to change registrars.

“The fact of intent at manipulating the offer was clear enough.” The source says. “Despite the fact that the offer closed two weeks later than earlier scheduled because of an extension from the original closing date of August 29th 2007 to September 12th, 2007, the registrars did not receive the returns from Access Bank, as required, until very late. In fact, one of the returning agents to the subscription that had sold 261,849,400 units valued at N3,901,556,060 to about 4000 subscribers did not submit details of its returns to the registrars until December, 2007, just some few days to the final submission to the Securities and Exchange Commission.” The source reveals.

“Even at that, so many agents attempted to submit to the registrars much later than this date but they were rejected by the registrars, but obviously, the bank did not reckon with the breaches of the regulatory authorities, so they accepted the agents’ late returns without recourse to the registrars. This led to so much hiccups in the shares allotment process.” The source added.

Matters became rather desperate when the Securities and Exchange Commission specifically directed by a letter of January 4, 2007 to the registrars that by January 11, 2007 the dispatch of returned monies to subscribers that were not fully allotted shares they paid for.

Meanwhile, all monies raised had, at this time, being domiciled in the vault of Access Bank with direct control by the bank. Ordinarily, this should not be. A capital market veteran informs that funds raised during public offers should be the direct responsibility of the registrars until all necessary administration had been concluded on the offer.

“It is at this point in time that the issuing house(s) would turn over the funds to the issuer that is the company raising the funds through public offer.” The veteran explains.

Issues on dispatching returned monies to unallotted subscribers became rather suspicious when, according to a source, Wema Registrars dispatched a letter to Access Bank to prompt an early dispatch of cheques for returned monies but the bank refused to even acknowledge the letter. Two other letters, one on January 21 2008 and the second on February 1, about a month after the dispatch was supposed to commence, did not elicit any form of response from Access Bank. It was not until February 15, a clear month plus four days after the dispatch should have commenced when, Wema Registars, according to inside source, was compelled to write another reminder to Access Bank, outlining the grave consequence of the breaches of regulatory requirement regarding the dispatch of returned monies that the bank decided to give consideration to the registrars request by calling a meeting for February 21, 2008 where issues of the returned monies will be ironed out.

An official that was present at the meeting intimates Fortune and Class Weekly that representatives of the management of the bank decided to change the rules of returned monies to subscribers by insisting that notifications should be made through the media that subscribers with over 50,000 unallotted shares should go to Access Bank’s designated branches to collect their refund.

“We protested that this was a clear breach, informing them that the SEC may not take kindly to the arrangement because the bank should not, in fact, be seen as having control over the funds raised through the public offer at that point in time. But then, they insisted, so we really had no choice but to concede to them. Now, at this point, a draft of the newspaper advertisement for the notice to investors was handed over to the registrars who published it on Monday, February 25, 2008 in the Punch and This Day newspaper.

“Besides, a draft of the letter informing investors to approach Access Bank directly for their refunds was also handed over to the registrars by Access Bank. This was vetted by the registrars, provisionally appended her signature and then returned the draft to Access Bank officials on the understanding that the Registrar would check with the Securities and Exchange Commission to ensure that the actions would not contravene the Commission’s directives on matters relating to returned monies.
When the registrars asked for the draft for further inputs, according to Fortune and Class Weekly source, officials at Access Bank were not forthcoming.

“We were already frustrated when, suddenly, on March 6, more than two months after the dispatch of the refund should have commenced, in fact, it should have been concluded by that date, about 4,000 letters were brought in cartons to the registrars office.” The source says.

The registrars staff were patently aghast at the letters suddenly dumped in their office by Access Bank.
“We were more than surprised when we opened one of the letters. We realised that Access Bank had, in fact, printed our official letter headed paper without discussion or approval from us and, had, gone ahead to print the draft letter we thought still needs some inputs, on the forged letter headed papers of Wema Registrars.

“The clear conclusion we reached at this point in time was that Access Bank did the printing of the forged letter head paper without the registrars knowledge to cover their many breaches of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s guidelines for the refund of the returned monies. This was further reinforced by the fact that Access Bank dumped the offensive letters in our office on the same date the officials of the Securities and Exchange Commission were examining their (Access Bank) books with respect to the public offer.

“The same day they dumped the letters, we forwarded a letter of protest to them (Access Bank), copied to the Director-General of SEC, dissociating ourselves from the non compliance of Access Bank with the SEC’s regulations on returned monies as contained in the forged letters.” The source reveals.
Curiously, sensitive as this matter had turned out; the Securities and Exchange Commission is yet to take an active position on the issue. This troubles other capital market operators that had been following the unraveling of the suspected breaches involved in the Access Bank public offer.

“This is typical.” A capital market operator says. “This explains why so many subscribers to public offers get short changed. You can imagine what beneficial transaction and trades the bank would have undertaken with money that should have been refunded to subscribers for close to a year after the conclusion of the offer way back in September 2007. What is the excuse the SEC would give for not investigating this case which had been formally reported to it by the registrars that managed the offer? The apparent lethargic reactions to sensitive issues like this only lead to loss of confidence in the stock market because the exploitation of the mass of investors is obvious.” The operator protests.
An Access Bank spoke person, Mr Segun Mamora, however insisted that the bank had to be directly involved in dispatching returned monies to its public offer subscribers because it became apparent that Wema Registrars could not manage the volume of responsibility deriving from the massive number of subscribers to the 2007 public offer.

“The fact is that when it was becoming obvious that the time was running out on the schedule of returned monies for the offer subscribers that were not allotted, we had to call a meeting where we met with the Registrars. After evaluating the situation, we all agreed that Access Bank should assist Wema Registrars in the dispatches. A letter was drafted which the parties agreed to and we undertook to dispatch them as agreed.

“There is no issue involved here, Access Bank and Wema Registrars have both gone before the Securities and Exchange Commission to explain the matters involved and it has been resolved.”

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WONDER BANKS TALE OF WOES IN KADUNA

Still grappling with the suitable strategy to refund thousands of investors money trapped in 38 so called wonder banks in Lagos State and other parts of South West Nigeria, another rash of failed investment schemes is in the making in Kaduna State.

Some variants of failed investment schemes in Lagos and other states in South West Nigeria have found operating havens in Northern States after throwing thousands into desperation on the heel of the close down of their operations by the Securities and Exchange Commission. According to reports from Kaduna State, some of these operators set up shops and had successfully drawn participants to their schemes with promises of high returns through forex trading and fixed odds.

The first of such operators to take to their heels are those behind Gold Trust International. The operational mode of Gold Trust International has close resemblance to the banished operators in Lagos. Payments to the scheme are to be made directly into a designated bank account. In the specific case of Gold Trust International, accounts were operated in BankPHB and Skye Bank. 

To participate, investors are to buy tons with one ton priced at N10,000 with a reward of N22,500 with the highest ton of 500 priced one million naira with a return of N2,400,000. The ton in Kaduna can easily translate to the slots sold by the schemes operators in Lagos. Reward are to be paid after eight to 10 operational weeks, just as it was promised in the Lagos and other South West schemes.

 Investigations have, however, revealed that the operators in Northern Nigerian cities like Kaduna have become smarter. Rather than wait till the bubble burst for the scheme and most likely get arrested, as soon as the operational weeks were getting near, they closed shop and took to their heels. Most of the investors that participated in the scheme are simply left confused.

As things stand, it may seem that the Securities and Exchange Commission have been caught napping despite its exposure to the way the schemes operated in Lagos and other South West States. It may even become more difficult to refund investors in Kaduna State because there are no accounts to be frozen with investors being hopeful of a refund based on the money retrieved from the bank accounts of various operators as it is being expected in Lagos. The worrying fact is that the operators in Kaduna and other parts of the North had cleared their bank accounts and flee with their loots.

Does this mean that the SEC does not have a monitoring that would be proactive enough to locate and truncate the operations of these wonder banks before they start defrauding people?     

“It is the responsibility of the Securities and Exchange Commission to monitor the investment community and be alert to the flourish of any form of investment scheme that does not conform to the requirements of the regulatory authorities.” A capital market operator said in response to the growing fear of the fraudulent activities of wonder bank operators that had found easy preys among many investment minded Nigerians in Kaduna State.” A capital market operators responded

“When there is a massive number of victims of illegal investment schemes as happened last year in Lagos and other part of south west Nigeria, my conclusion is that the Securities and Exchange Commission has not been up and doing in constantly monitoring the environment. Part of the law asserts that any form of scheme involving money and monetary reward for participation must be registered with the Commission, you can ask what effort the Commission staff have made to probe the activities of these schemes which products are usually brazenly advertised in newspapers and publicized through posters and banners in urban cities like Kaduna.”

When Fortune and Class Weekly checked with the Commission office, Mr. Oloyi, the Commission’s spoke person was not available, however, an official who refused to be named said the Commission is yet to receive any form of complaint relating to the activities of wonder banks in Kaduna State.