Bank of Valletta (BOV) has hit back at stockbroker Paul Bonello and is cancelling credit cards belonging to him and his wife. Bonello has been defending pensioners and small investors who have been lured to invest their money in schemes such as the La Valette Multi manager property Fund run by the BOV but designed for experienced investors.
Bonello has been involved in most of the cases in which since 12 May 2011 BOV has been sanctioned by the Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA) at least six times and fined a total amount of €726,140 for letting down pensioners and small inexperienced investors.
Paul Bonello has been informed that from Sunday 1 July 2012 bank cards and services belonging to him personally, as well financial instruments held by the investment consultancy group he manages, are to be terminated in accordance with the terms of the business agreement between the group and the bank.
Paul Bonello told The Times of Malta: “This is a blatant, knee-jerk reaction to the MFSA’s most recent investigation of Bank of Valletta, and there’s a clear retributive streak directed at me.”
BOV is refusing to comment on the case: “In keeping with the normal obligations and standards of professional secrecy, the bank cannot discuss any such matters. Professional secrecy is a crucial aspect in any banker-customer relationship, with trust and mutual respect being key elements for such a relationship to exist”.
Bonello has called on the Prime Minister, demanding that the government, as the bank’s largest shareholder, provide “legally valid, objective reasons” for his account cancellations from the bank’s board of directors. The Office of the Prime Minister has told Bonello to take his case to the MFSA. MFSA said it will take steps after Bonello has filed a formal complaint against BOV.
Bonello is not impressed. He accuses the regulator of “acting like the three wise monkeys, trying to avoid any investigation unless it has to”.
Bonello said that he is determined not to let this incident detract from his professional integrity when dealing with BOV issues.
Since last February BOV top management has remained silent on reports that it ws ready to use the bank’s advertising clout to punish those media that will continue to report on the La Valette Multi Manager Property Fund (MMPF) saga in ways which the bank considers “hostile”. BOV had made its employees sell the schemes under this fund to hundreds of pensioners and small investors who did not understand what they were signing up to. They lost millions of Euros of their hard earned savings in schemes which were designed for experienced investors.
Several newsrooms of local media that receive thousands of Euros in advertising revenue from the BOV were approached before the last annual general meeting of the Fund and told not to report its proceedings in a way which the bank considers negative.
The threat to punish media organizations that do not comply with the BOV wishes had the desired effect as media news managers became worried about the financial implications for their organizations in an advertising market which is already very difficult because of the financial and economic situation in the country.