Metrobank allots P4.45B capital buffer amid internal fraud

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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

Ty family-led Metropolitan Bank and Trust Co. accepted accountability and command responsibility for a P1.75-billion internal fraud case that has rocked the bank and triggered hefty sanctions from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP)

In a statement on Tuesday, Metrobank also agreed to immediately set aside P4.45 billion in capital reserve to comply with a BSP directive as a buffer for higher operational risk.

The sanctions imposed by the BSP on Metrobank ranged from reprimand to suspension of directors and officers who “failed to perform adequate oversight and/or have been complacent/remiss of their duties and responsibilities.” The bank was required to allocate around P4.45 billion of its capital on a consolidated basis to cover for higher operational risk, subject to periodic review.

Metrobank was likewise required to execute and submit a letter of commitment – to be implemented and completed within one year – to enhance corporate governance, credit administration, internal controls and audit, risk management, and customer on-boarding and monitoring processes.

Last July, the National Bureau of Investigation officials apprehended Maria Victoria Lopez, a vice president at the corporate services unit of Metrobank’s head office in Makati City, for funnelling disbursed loans into fictitious accounts created in the name of one of the bank’s biggest corporate clients.

In a statement released after the BSP’s announcement of sanctions, Metrobank said it appreciated the BSP’s “affirmation” of the bank’s strong financial condition, safety and soundness, while assuring the public that the bank’s operations remained “business as usual.”

“The board and senior management accept accountability and command responsibility for the incident and commits to implementing the directives,” the bank told the Philippine Stock Exchange on Tuesday.

With P2-trillion in assets and P210 billion in equity, Metrobank assured that it’s in a strong position to set aside P4.45 billion of capital reserve in line with the BSP’s directive.

“In addition, the bank has proactively absorbed the entire amount related to this incident in the third quarter. Despite this, the growth momentum of the bank remains robust and results for the year are ahead of plan,” the bank said.

Metrobank reiterated that after conducting a 100-percent audit, no customer was affected.

“This is an isolated incident. The perpetrator acted alone and for her sole benefit. She has been apprehended and cases against her have been filed,” Metrobank said.

Metrobank assured that it was proactively reviewing and improving its systems, noting this was “exactly how the fraud was detected.”

“The bank’s control framework remains effective and even stronger. Thus, the BSP recognized the immediate actions taken by MBTC, as well as the medium to long-term initiatives that will serve to further improve governance, compliance, and control,” the bank said.

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