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Metrobank probes possible conspiracy

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Metrobank probes possible conspiracy

Stock market selldown wipes P13.9B off bank’s value
By: - Reporter / @daxinq
/ 05:35 AM July 22, 2017

Members of National Bureau of Investigation-Anti Fraud Division arrested Ma. Victoria ‘Marivic’ Lopez, head of the Metrobanks’ Corporate Service Management for alleged qualified theft, falsification and violation of the General Banking Law on a entrapment operation during press briefing in NBI office, Manila. INQUIRER PHOTO / RICHARD A. REYES

The massive internal fraud uncovered at Metropolitan Bank and Trust Co.—valued by the bank at P900 million, but pegged by two sources at P2.5 billion—may have been going on for at least five years before it was discovered.

A full-blown probe is now being conducted by Metrobank and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to determine whether the suspect was acting alone in executing the scam or was in league with other parties in the bank or even outside.

According to two sources who spoke to the Inquirer, the manipulation of loan releases into accounts of fictitious borrowers was also likely made easier by the “relatively high stature of the suspected rogue banker in the country’s second-biggest financial institution.”

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“Everyone knew that Mavic was an important person in the bank,” said a source who has dealt with the suspect, Maria Victoria Lopez, 54, a corporate services assistant vice president of Metrobank. “She had a fancy car, she had a bodyguard and she knew the [bank’s] owners.”

The second source said that due to her status within Metrobank’s Makati City head office, she could order the execution of transactions even without the benefit of complete documentation.

“People trusted her, or were afraid of saying ‘no’ to her when she gave an order,” the banker said.

“We understand that this URC account has been used for this activity since 2012,” he added, referring to the fictitious bank account opened in the name of the Gokongwei family-owned Universal Robina Corp.

Meanwhile, Metrobank yesterday said it was “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,” it said in a statement. “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.”

News of the fraud sent Metrobank shares dropping in yesterday’s trading at the Philippine Stock Exchange. At the end of the session, Metrobank stock fell 5.03 percent in heavy selling to P89.90 from previous day’s close of P91.50.

The decline wiped out P13.9 billion worth of stock value of its shareholders composed of the Ty family and other institutional and retail investors.

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For its part, the Bankers Association of the Philippines (BAP) expressed confidence that Metrobank would quickly resolve the recently reported theft committed by a senior official.

“This appears to be an isolated incident and we are confident the facts will arise from the ongoing investigations being carried out by both Metrobank and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas,” the group said.

“Such incident is quite unfortunate but we wish to reiterate that banks have established internal controls and systems and instituted separation of functions designed to help prevent crimes of this nature from happening,” BAP added.

It urged the bank to “quickly enforce the necessary remedial measures and policies required to prevent such incidents from happening again.”

Publicly listed URC—in whose name the fraudulent Bain loans were disbursed before being siphoned off by the suspect—said it had been assured by Metrobank that the company “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.”

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TAGS: internal fraud, Metropolitan Bank and Trust Co., probe
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