Bankers Attack Politicians
Local bankers are questioning the motives of some members of parliament who wish to delve into the lending practices of banks in the Bahamas.
One leading banker said that it is clear that some parliamentarians have had their share of personal problems with financial institutions and may not be objective in their investigations.
But some parliamentarians insist that banks have been "getting away with murder" as it relates to consumer rights and there needs to be better legislation to provide more consumer protection.
These MP's believe that the contracts that govern banking business are skewed in favour of the banks to the disadvantage of the consumer.
Malcolm Adderley, the Member of Parliament for Elizabeth who chairs a newly-formed parliamentary committee to look into lending practices of banks, believes that contracts that govern home mortgages should allow for mortgage holders to have more rights when they have built up significant equity.
He said that it cannot be right for persons who may have missed a few mortgage payments to lose the entire property to the banks and be cheated on the equity value of the property.
But the bankers are said to be concerned that the image some MP's have of lending institutions is tainted.
Mr. Adderley, who brought the private member's bill to the House of Assembly to establish the committee, told the Journal Wednesday that while he could not speak to the credit worthiness of all committee members, he was confident that an objective group had been assembled.
The other four committee members are Pleasant Bridgewater, MP for Marco City; Ken Russell, MP for High Rock; Robert Sweeting, MP for South Abaco; and Sidney Stubbs, MP for Holy Cross.
There was concern within parliament Wednesday that one member, Mr. Stubbs, along with Mount Moriah MP Keod Smith set the wrong tone for the work of the committee when they sought to link respectable bankers to criminal activity a week earlier.
"We want to redress a heinous crime that has been perpetrated for many years by those who were almost unconscionable, those who made millions and millions of dollars from one piece of property," Mr. Stubbs said. "The time has come to stop it."
Mr. Smith, meanwhile, said the banks are close to being legitimized criminal institutions.
The bankers will meet with Central Bank Governor Julian Francis to discuss parliament's intention to establish the committee and the issues surrounding its members' work, the Journal has learnt.
The bankers have also pinpointed other members of parliament who are not a part of the committee who have been in default of loans, or turned down for credit.
Mr. Adderley, the committee chairman, said he believes that those members who will be looking at the lending practices have the highest level of integrity.
"I don't feel that members of the committee would allow their personal experiences with any financial institution to interfere with their public and professional duty to conduct a proper investigation of the issues at hand," he said. "In fact, I don't think it would be fair for one to prejudice any members of the committee unless the banks can show a personal bias on behalf of the committee."
Mr. Adderley added, "Some of us have to take the brunt. Most of us in leadership positions sometimes tend to talk about these things but have no intention of taking a serious step in the right direction."
He said that going up against powerful financial institutions will not be easy.
But he added, "I would have thought that corporate citizens and government corporations who sincerely have the interest of the people at heart would have no reason to fear in respect to investigations into matters that have been of great concern to people for as long as anyone can remember.
"I personally don't feel that leaders of the people have any choice in matters that fundamentally affect their lives despite the perception that they might be going up against tremendous odds in the form of institutions that have tremendous economic power and influence."
Mr. Adderley added that the committee will not seek to go witch hunting.
"It merely seeks to discover information that hitherto is merely speculative in order to make objective and frank recommendations to parliament," he said.
The committee, which planned to hold its first meeting today, has been established "to examine, investigate and assess the policy of banking institutions with respect to mortgage lending and practices with a view to offering legislative protection for consumers."
Candia Dames, The Bahama Journal