CONGRESS RELEASES LIST OF BENEFICIARIES OF BANK-RESCUE PROGRAM.
The Congress agreed to release the list by implementing a code-sharing mechanism that allowed access to a compact disc containing the list created by Canadian auditor Michael Mackey in 1999. The list could not be accessed without the use of separate codes provided to each political party represented in the Congress (see SourceMex, 2000-07-26). In its decision, all parties in the Congress agreed to share their codes to access the list.
"This is a reasoned, intelligent, and legal decision," said Deputy Fauzi Hamdan, floor leader for the center-right Partido Accion Nacional (PAN) in the lower house.
The center-left Partido de la Revolucion Democratica (PRD), which long led the fight against the use of government funds to rescue wealthy bankers, was the first to release the list via its congressional Web site.
The list, which offered details on 2,500 operations, did not contain any surprises because many of the names had been made public by computer hackers several months ago. As expected, the names included associates and relatives of bankers Carlos Cabal Peniche, Jorge Lankenau, Agustin Legorretta, Jose Madariaga, as well as friends and family of prominent business leaders like the late Carlos Hank Gonzalez.
There had been speculation that the list would include prominent political surnames like Fox Quesada, Labastida Ochoa, and Fernandez de Cevallos. But these names were not included in the records, prompting some charges that the government had tampered with the list to avoid incriminating relatives of prominent politicians from the long-governing Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) and the PAN.
"Opening the disc in itself does not mean much," said Alfonso Ramirez, president of the debtors-rights organization El Barzon. "The main problem is applying the law to make the banks pay back the government."
The release of the compact disc could lead to a deeper congressional inquiry, with several legislators directing the federal auditing agency (Auditoria Superior de la Federacion) to offer a more detailed analysis of the 18,000 reportable transactions examined by Mackey. The auditor was expected to present a report to the Congress by Sept. 10.
"The information was available before, but the formal step had not been taken," said PAN Deputy Jaime Salazar. "This sets up the possibility of further action."
But some analysts are skeptical that the government can recover any significant amounts of money. "The larger share of the costs of the bank-rescue program were tied to banks that were taken over by the government, many of which no longer exist," said columnist Enrique Quintana of the daily newspaper Reforma.
Savings-protection agency asked to bail out another bank
Amid the controversy regarding the illegal FOBAPROA loans, the agency's successor, the Instituto de Proteccion al Ahorro Bancario (IPAB), has been asked to intervene in still another troubled financial institution.
The bank, Banco Quadrum, which was formed in 1994 and offers loans for low-income housing, has seen its capitalization levels drop below the 9% rate recommended by Comision Nacional Bancaria y de Valores (CNBV).
"The bank could have trouble remaining viable in the short term," said financial consultant Mario Di Constanzo. Di Constanzo is also an adviser to the PRD's Senate delegation.
IPAB officials had no immediate comment on the request. But Quadrum officials said there is no need for the IPAB to intervene in the bank anytime soon.
"It is true that Quadrum has to strengthen its capital position, but in no way are we in a position to require intervention," said Ernesto Rodriguez, the bank's director of investor relations.
IPAB begins privatization of Bancrecer
The proposal for IPAB to assume control of Quadrum comes as the agency is looking for a buyer for intervened institution Bancrecer. The agency injected 103 billion pesos (US$11.33 billion) into Bancrecer in 1999 after assuming control of the bank (see SourceMex, 1999-10-20). At the time, Bancrecer was Mexico's fifth-largest bank.
Five potential buyers initially expressed interest in acquiring Bancrecer, including Spain's Banco Sabadell, Dutch- based ING Baring, Mexico's Grupo Financiero Banorte, Canada's Scotia-Inverlat, and Mexican mining company Corporativo Mexicano Oconahua.
All but Banorte and Scotia-Inverlat dropped out of the process by a July deadline for interested parties to submit applications. The two banks see the purchase of Bancrecer as an opportunity to expand their operations in Mexico.
"We are committed to Mexico, and we are interested in expanding our Mexican market share both through domestic growth of Inverlat and through possible acquisitions," said Scotiabank spokeswoman Pam Agnew. "And we will look at all opportunities in the marketplace."
IPAB spokespersons say the agency expects to announce a winning bidder sometime in October.
If Banorte wins the bid, it would become the fourth- largest financial institution with a 12.5% share of all banking assets in Mexico. The bank, however, is proceeding with caution in the bidding process. "We must be sure that this purchase adds value to our financial group," said Banorte president Othon Ruiz Montemayor. "If this does not generate a profit for us, then we are not going to risk Banorte."
Sale of Banco del Atlantico raises some questions
The IPAB in recent months has also come under fire for allowing too generous terms in the sale of Banco del Atlantico to Grupo Financiero Bital. The government rescued Banco del Atlantico in 1995 (see SourceMex, 1995-09-13). Bital agreed to acquire Banco del Atlantico, but had until now been unable to reach terms with the government.
At one point Bital had threatened to return Banco del Atlantico to the IPAB if agreement was not reached on a sale price. "Technically it's possible to return Atlantico to the government because its shares and assets are all in IPAB's hands," Bital chief executive Eduardo Berrondo said in June. "We are only the administrators of Atlantico."
In the end, IPAB agreed to inject 13 billion pesos (US$1.43 billion) in Banco del Atlantico to keep the institution attractive to Bital's investors.
But the IPAB decision drew strong criticism from the opposition parties. "We will not continue paying for errors of political leaders and incompetent bureaucrats," said PRD secretary general Jesus Zambrano Grijalva. "Our country barely has enough to eat and subsist, and it is unjust that our money is always being used to satisfy the interests of the wealthy."
Zambrano urged the Congress to review the recent IPAB decisions, which have run counter to the interests of most Mexicans. "I believe there are problems in the way the agency has functioned," said Zambrano. [Note: Peso-dollar conversions in this article are based on the Interbank rate in effect on Aug. 15, reported at 9.09 pesos per US$1.00] (Sources: CNI en Linea, 05/31/01, 08/08/01, 08/09/01; Agence France-Presse, 08/09/01; Excelsior, 06/01/01, 06/08/01, 06/15/01, 06/19/01, 07/12/01, 08/01/01, 08/02/01, 08/06/01, 08/08-10/01; La Jornada, 06/04/01, 06/08/01, 06/14/01, 06/19/01, 06/21/01, 07/06/01, 08/01/01, 08/08-10/01; El Economista, 06/14/01, 06/18/01, 06/21/01, 07/05/01, 07/09/01, 08/06/01, 08/08-10/01; The News, 08/10/01; Proceso, 08/12/01; Reuters, 06/01/01, 06/14/01, 07/05/01, 07/12/01, 07/23/01, 08/12/01; Reforma, 06/01/01, 08/08-10/01, 08/13/01; Novedades, 06/01/01, 06/14/01, 06/19/01, 08/02/01, 08/07-09/01, 08/13/01; Notimex, 07/05/01, 08/08/01, 08/09/01, 08/12/01, 08/13/01; La Cronica de Hoy, 08/01/01, 08/08/01, 08/13/01, 08/14/01; El Financiero, 08/14/01; El Universal, 06/01/01, 06/04/01, 06/07/01, 06/11/01, 06/14/01, 06/15/01, 07/06/01, 07/11/01, 07/25/01, 08/01-03, 08/08/01, 08/13-15/01)