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Biz Buzz: RCBC board shakeup

/ 12:20 AM July 25, 2016

If anything was clear from the results of last summer’s Senate investigation into the $81-million money laundering scandal, it’s that there is a need to increase operational and regulatory oversight at Rizal Commercial Banking Corp.

RCBC was, of course, a key figure in the whole affair, with its facilities (from the branch to the head office levels) having been used to facilitate the entry of the funds stolen by still unknown parties from the Bangladeshi central bank and wired to the Philippines for laundering.

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The fallout for the bank was nothing short of earthshaking. The Yuchengco family-controlled financial giant has since replaced Lorenzo Tan as its president with former Development Bank of the Philippines chief Gil Buenaventura (who was plucked out of retirement to run the state-owned bank a few years ago), as well as a host of other key officers and division heads.

But the biggest changes have happened at an even higher level, namely the bank’s board of directors. More specifically, we’re talking about the number of independent directors who, according to the rules of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and the Securities and Exchange Commission, are supposed to safeguard the interests of the broader public and minority stakeholders independently from the firm’s majority owners.

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The law requires publicly listed firms like RCBC to have at least two independent directors on their boards or 20 percent of the total board headcount, whichever is lesser. Since the bank normally has 15 board seats, 20 percent meant three slots had to be allocated for independent directors.

In the wake of the scandal, however, the bank decided to up the ante and add a fourth independent director. Thus, RCBC’s latest disclosure disclosed the names of Armando Medina, Melito Salazar Jr., Adelita Vergel de Dios and Juan Santos as its independent directors, duly elected during its recent stockholders’ meeting.

But wait. We heard the top brass at the BSP wasn’t satisfied with that. They wanted to see more draconian measures put in place to ensure that the money-laundering scandal will no longer be repeated.

Indeed, Biz Buzz was told that no less than BSP’s Monetary Board ordered the bank to increase the number of independent directors in its boardroom. By how many? BSP sent the word to the bank that it wants no less than— hold on to your seats—seven independent directors at RCBC. Seven! That’s just one board member shy of becoming the majority.

And that also represents 46 percent of the bank’s total board headcount of 15 and is, more importantly, way above the so-called “super minority” threshold needed to veto whatever the bank’s principal owners propose during board meetings.

According to a source in RCBC, the bank will appoint former DBP director Vaughn Montes, former Securities and Exchange Commission chair Lilia Bautista and former Secretary (and current Pagcor director) Gabriel Claudio to its board on Monday, with an August 1 effectivity.

The question now is … will this be enough to institutionalize the needed reforms at RCBC? Abangan. Daxim L. Lucas

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No more fun?

New tourism czar Wanda Corazon Tulfo Teo had previously said she would keep the “more fun in the Philippines” campaign slogan, which was initiated by the previous administration (under predecessor Ramon Jimenez Jr.) with a fair degree of success. That campaign indeed generated a lot of buzz and had been warmly received by travel and tourism practitioners in recent years.

But Teo indicated a prospective change of heart in a forum with the Public Relations Society of the Philippines (PRSP) last week. Her speech before the PRSP was very quick, maybe lasting only a few minutes. Such a meet-and-greet session therefore did not tackle the policy direction that many attendees were looking forward to. But what was most surprising (and what was the key takeaway for many) was when she asked the PR experts to help come up with a new slogan for the department. The common thought bubble among many of these experts was: Why fix it when it ain’t broke? Doris Dumlao-Abadilla

E-mail us at [email protected] Get business alerts and a preview of Biz Buzz the evening before it comes out. Text ON INQ BUSINESS to 4467 (P2.50/alert).

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TAGS: Adelita Vergel de Dios, Armando Medina, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, DBP, Development Bank of the Philippines, Gabriel Claudio, Gil Buenaventura, Juan Santos, Lilia Bautista, Lorenzo Tan, Melito Salazar Jr., Pagcor director, Securities and Exchange Commission, Vaughn Montes, Wanda Corazon Tulfo Teo
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