Banks have a unique status in our society. Powerful, and able to drive the economy, they seem heartless and ready to put profit above any moral or human principle. Why not just say this when it seems to be a generally held view?
They were vital in the good times when people needed money to fund projects – to buy a house, for example – but in recent years, with the economic crisis hitting really hard, their true natures have been revealed and their behaviour has led people to accuse them of preying on the weak and vulnerable.
These are a few thoughts on why banks can be considered one of the most hated institutions in Spain at the beginning of 2013.
1) Thousands of Spaniards have been badly affected by Spanish Banks Swaps contracts which were sold as insurance against interest rate fluctuation. These people have had to pay thousands of Euros each in the last 4-5 years.
After four years of legal battles the organization No-Clip has successfully coordinated legal action on behalf of these consumers which has resulted in the courts handing down hundreds of judgements against the Banks. In hundreds of cases the Banks have lost and had to return the money.
2) Many thousands of Spaniards have been affected by “Preferente” contracts. These were sold as deposit or saving accounts but in reality they were agreements to invest in complex financial products in such a way that the clients’ money was locked away for decades. These products were only ever appropriate for financial institutions and should never been sold to ordinary members of the public. There are already associations supporting clients affected by “preferentes”.
Many people have effectively lost their life savings due to preferentes because they will not be able to recover their savings in this life … and neither will their children or grandchildren.
3) Who else hates Banks in Spain? According to the many estate agents with whom we work in Spain they are being badly hurt by the major role of the Banks in the property market. Not only do the banks hold huge property portfolios, they also prevent estate agents who sell repossessed properties from getting a proper commission. Unless they are selling large quantities of repossessed properties, the profit for the hard work is short. Only two weeks ago a senior executive from the property arm of a “Spanish bank admitted that the banks disliked others making a profit from properties repossessed by the banks”.
4) Cruel evictions: another reason to hate Banks. The attitude of the banks during the present crisis has led to more than 100,000 Spanish families losing their homes in recent years without having had the chance to renegotiate the terms of the loans and thus make them affordable.
The recent suicide of a woman in Barakaldo (Vizcaya) who was evicted from her home in November 2012 brought the bank’s uncaring attitude into sharp focus, and the popular backlash against the banks has led them to revise their policies and place on hold their evictions. They are now more willing to discuss a renegotiation of the mortgages with their customers. Yesterday we got a phone call from an expat in Marbella whose house has been repossessed out of the blue, and despite him paying €3,500 in October to stop the process. The guy said.
5) Banks have been lent so far €60 billion by the Spanish Government – money which has come from Spanish tax-payers. In addition the European Bank will give €39 billion for the Spanish banks’ bailout from EU taxpayers. So we pay the bank directly as a client and also pay them a significant sum from our taxes. At the same time, Spanish Banks are strangling people: swaps, preferentes, evictions, refusal of credit, higher rates of interest, and so on.
Yesterday also, my brother was charged by his Bank a 30% higher commission for account maintenance compared to 2011.
Who else hate Banks in Spain? A friend of mine… who told me about Spanish Banks: they would sell their own mums for a profit.