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No threat to BNZ chief - right of reply

By Phil Verry

Friday 24th January 2003

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It seems Christmas fantasies are not confined to kids' belief in Santa Claus.

The lead story in the December 20 issue is laced with fiction, untruths and distortion. Deborah Hill Cone's denigrating and unfounded references to me, such as "conspiracy theorist," are unworthy of her.

First, I have no involvement with the NZAIF organisation. I am also unaware of any action by it that has damaged New Zealand society. To the contrary, they appear to be loyal to their country. I find the description a "mix of white supremacists and Maori radicals" highly improbable. In relation to me, they were simply debt collection mediators.

Suggestions of threats to the personal safety of Bank of New Zealand managing director Peter Thodey are preposterous spin. I am informed they simply asked him to attend a mediation. Seemingly, he was intimidated by the prospect of meeting a client. He even criticises Phillips Fox, one of the best and most ethical of law firms.

In the circumstances, Mr Thodey should not object to approaches to him at his home. On behalf of his bank, he would have arranged for thousands of such visits to serve papers on clients in their homes at night, sometimes using threatening-looking people, without regard for the clients' families he expects for his own.

If he felt concern he would either have attended the meeting or have issued NZAIF with a trespass notice. It says a lot that he elected to do neither.

Second, I have never met with them nor have I advised the "Confederation of Chiefs about how to set up its own bank and currency." Among other things, that is not my field of expertise. This untruth is attributed to "BNZ intelligence," surely an oxymoron.

Third, my information is that the real reason BNZ backed out of the court action against [NZAIF leader] Kelvyn Alp is that BNZ was concerned about what may have come out during the court hearing. Understandable. The action had no substance, anyway, so would have failed.

NBR's readers are entitled to know the facts.

In my experience, I found BNZ "business relationship managers" so abysmally incompetent they wrecked our company. In any profession or trade there is an assumption of fit-for-purpose competence.

By way of analogy, no one would find it acceptable to discover, too late, they were flying in a plane piloted by cabin cleaners. Claimants' redress through the courts is rendered a practical nullity.

This internal culture also took down BNZ. Within the New Zealand context, its corporate conduct, which led to its collapse, was far worse than Enron and WorldCom combined.

Unlike in the US, no inquiry was ordered; it was one of the weakest and most damaging political decisions in New Zealand history.

Instead, those responsible were either paid enormous golden handshakes to leave or they stayed and were promoted.

It is implicit in the NBR article that BNZ and Mr Thodey are pillars of society upholding the national interest. New Zealanders deserve a balanced view. Ian Wishart's book Daylight Robbery ­ The Plundering of the People's Bank should be required reading, especially for anyone with or contemplating a banking relationship with BNZ.

The BNZ board could contribute to nation-building by establishing ethical dispute mediation and resolution processes for clients who have a grievance.

Past boards have found there is risk in allowing its policies to be dominated and led by its management.

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