Wednesday, October 08, 2008


The present day tragedy hitting banks globally due to the economic crash of this era is a result of man's greed for more wealth. It is also the manner in which he acquires them regardless of the ripples he creates ending later as a juggernaut-tsunami. A walking bottomless pit, unmindful of the imminent repercussions. In 1981, a bank scandal rocked the financial community in Manila because of one single greedy banker. His name was Dewey Dee, a Chinese-Filipino whose clan was prominent in the local business circles, proprietor of the Continental Manufacturing Corporation (CMC) which powerfully controlled around 85 percent of the acrylic yarn trade for export, and a banking entrepreneur who was labeled as one gifted with financial banking prowess and genius. He would go on to prove them all right soon after, but in a sinister fashion. In 1980, a bank in Manila, the Security Bank and Trust Company (SBTC) was acquired by nameless Chinoy investors led by Dee and two other Chinoys namely Philip Ang and Ramon Siy. The chair of the bank was a certain Rolando Gapud. One such other stockholder was the more famous Jose Y. Campos. Sometime in March of the same year, a firm in the U.S. Virgin Islands under the name Empire Holdings Inc. purchased a modest bank in San Francisco, California for some US$ 15.3 million, a very huge amount during that time. Well, it still is even today. That bank was the Redwood Bank. Empire Holdings had three wealthy shareholders - Dee, Ang and Siy, while Gapud served as director of Redwood Bank. By January 1981, Dee had vanished in thin air. Some believed he amassed gambling debts in Macau and in Las Vegas amounting in several millions of dollars. He participated in the commodities game and in stocks in Hong Kong, but didn't succeed, and when he fled the Philippines (0n board PAL flight #81?), it was estimated that he left behind debts to the tune of PhP635 million (US$ 84.7 million was its equivalent then). The Chinese community was shocked and rocked with shame because of this, and it was a public relations nightmare as well for many of them in the banking sector, for Chinoy credibility was instantly dead as a doornail. The local banking community was in a state of paralysis and comatose. Then, like a toxic mushroom sprouting one sunny summer morning, Dee resurfaced somewhere in Canada in 1983 while applying for an immigrant visa. This was the largest if not one of the largest financial scandals in the Philippine banking industry and history, causing a severe crisis in our banking system, pushing our banks' panic buttons. Credit was even squeezed tighter and the roll-over of all loans were put to a halt. I wonder, is Dewey Dee related to our present-day certified GMA "sip-sip" Donald Dee of the PCCI and SSS, whose canine closeness to her, being a mother dog herself, reaped many business favors for him? If he is, then we should keep a close watch on himself as well. Today, as banks and financial hubs worldwide are wheeled in the ICU on a daily basis brought about by traces of their own versions of Dewey Dee - greedy and dangerous to the banking community, and with grossly over-compensated bank CEOs having the time of their lives on board private yachts and steamy spas with millions stashed away in their private vaults, one really wonders of a safe place to keep one's wealth, however humble and hard-earned. I'm glad I don't have that immediate concern, and I think it's really one of the rare advantages of being cash-broke, just putting my money in my now emaciated piggy bank. I remember one of my father's philosophy regarding this when he once told me, "When you make that final journey home, the less gold you carry, the lighter the trip will be."
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