March 10, 2015

BDDK balks at giving up control over Bank Asya

In spite of the fact that nearly 85 percent of Bank Asya's A-type shareholders -- who have the right to nominate board members -- have delivered the documents requested by the Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency (BDDK), the absence of which was the basis for the BDDK's recent takeover of the bank's management, the watchdog agency has not given up control of the bank.

The bank's lawyer, Süleyman Taşbaş, told Today's Zaman on Monday that the BDDK has not relinquished its control over management rights of the shareholders even though 85 percent of them sent the documents to the agency. Taşbaş said the agency should have given up the control of bank when 51 percent of the shareholders submitted the documents.

The BDDK ruled on Feb. 3 that management control of 63 percent of the privileged shares held by A-type shareholders be handed over to the state-run Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF). The agency claimed that some privileged shareholders in Bank Asya had failed to submit certain documents to the agency within one-and-a-half months, including documents regarding criminal records, audited financial records, tax records for five years, property records and accounts in other banks. The shareholders were asked to provide the documents for themselves and for any corporate holdings in which they had ownership. The short time allowed by the agency for the submission of the documents, however, has stirred reactions from shareholders.

Zaman daily's business editor and columnist Turhan Bozkurt also quoted in his Monday column a source familiar with the issue who says that the BDDK has been breaking the law every single day it maintains control over the lender.

Bozkurt said the takeover decision was already unlawful since the article that the watchdog had based its move on did not apply in Bank Asya's case. A government whistleblower on Twitter called Fuat Avni, whose revelations have proven to be true most of the time, previously tweeted: “Article No. 18 does not grant the [BDDK] authority to replace [the] management [of the bank].”

The CEO of the lender, Ahmet Beyaz, stressed in a press conference on Feb. 6 that the BDDK's use of the clause was unlawful, since the article stipulates a different response in such a situation.

The BDDK's decision to take over the bank was an attempt to scare account holders into withdrawing their money, paving the way for the bank's seizure since banking laws require the watchdog to take control of a bank if it suffers from financial issues that negatively impact the deposit holders.

Since the decision, however, account holders across the country have flocked to local branches of Bank Asya in a show of solidarity, putting more money into accounts to save their bank, since they believed the decision had been a part of a prolonged smear campaign led by the government against dissenting voices and institutions. While the government has exerted efforts to cover up the major graft scandal made public on Dec. 17 and 25, 2013, the opposition media has tried to cover up all details about the allegations and has thus been the target of counter-attacks by the government on multiple occasions.

Bank Asya is said to be close to the faith-based Gülen movement, also known as the Hizmet movement, which is affiliated with Turkey's most-circulated and largest opposition newspaper, Zaman.

The Zaman headquarters were also raided on Dec. 14 and its editor-in-chief, Ekrem Dumanlı, was detained for a short period of time.

Published on Today's Zaman, 09 March 2015, Monday