Metrobank president, officials to be suspended for fraud case

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METROBANK will raise up to P20 billion in fresh funding. — BW FILE PHOTO

By Melissa Luz T. Lopez,
Senior Reporter

AT LEAST 12 executives and officers at Metropolitan Bank & Trust Co. (Metrobank) will be suspended over the P1.75-billion internal fraud case unearthed last July, which includes a three-month sanction for the bank’s president.

A well-placed source familiar with the matter said Metrobank President Fabian S. Dee as well as Philippine Savings Bank President Vicente R. Cuna, Jr. will serve 90-day suspensions as part of the sanctions imposed by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) on officials who “failed to perform adequate oversight” that led to the embezzling of P1.75 billion by a bank officer.

Prior to his secondment to the thrift banking unit, Mr. Cuna served as head of Metrobank’s Institutional Banking Sector and Corporate Banking Group.

Initial reports pegged the amount pocketed from the scheme at P900 million from fake loans using the name of the Gokongwei-led Universal Robina Corp. — one of the bank’s long-time clients — in multiple tranches worth P30 million.

This was reportedly crafted by former bank vice-president and corporate service management head Maria Victoria S. Lopez, who has been arrested for multiple criminal raps back in July.

A heftier 120-day suspension has also been meted out to another bank officer who handled the opening of bank accounts where the proceeds of the fictitious business loans were transferred to, the source said.

It is up for the bank to decide when the concerned officers will serve their respective suspensions, but this must be implemented in one uninterrupted period.

Sought for confirmation, Metrobank Vice-President and Head of Investor Relations Joey T. Mapa said: “The individual details of the sanctions were not publicly released by the BSP, thus we cannot disclose anything beyond the official statement.”

The Ty-owned lender has also been required to “enhance” protocols to improve corporate governance, credit administration, internal controls and audit, risk management, and customer onboarding and monitor within a year to prevent a repeat of the case.

The BSP has also ordered Metrobank to add P4.45 billion to its reserves to cover for “higher operational risk” following the incident. This would be on top of other capital buffer allocations such as the reserve standard at 20% of total asset base, and will only be lifted once the regulator sees that the lender has installed “adequate” controls.

In a disclosure on Tuesday, Metrobank said that their senior management has “accepted command responsibility” over the case and will implement the BSP’s sanctions, even as the lender maintained that the bank remains “safe and sound.”

Metrobank is the second-biggest lender in the country with a P1.99-trillion asset base as of end-September. The listed lender reported P15.7 billion in consolidated net income for the first nine months, up from P14.3 billion booked during the same period last year.