Maybank adheres to Cabinet order
By WONG CHUN WAI
KUALA LUMPUR: The Cabinet has ordered the country’s largest bank, Maybank, to withdraw its requirement that law firms must have a bumiputra partner with at least a 50% stake before they could do any business with the bank.
The move, which generated controversy and criticism that it was discriminatory, was discussed at the weekly Cabinet meeting yesterday.
Highly-placed sources said the Cabinet took the stand because it felt it was not a government policy and that the Finance Ministry had also not issued any such directive to banks.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who is also Finance Minister, chaired the Cabinet meeting.
The sources said that while the bank's decision was an internal directive, the Cabinet felt it was not a proper decision.
MCA president Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting, when contacted, said the Cabinet discussed the issue, and felt that Maybank's decision was inappropriate and not in line with government policy.
The Housing and Local Government Minister considered the matter settled and resolved.
The Maybank decision had been criticised by various groups including the MCA, Bar Council and the Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, which said firms should be judged on their merit and not ethnic composition.
In Boston, FOO YEE PING reports that Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak as saying the government’s policy is to help both bumiputras and non-bumiputras.
He said Maybank should understand that the government policy was to encourage government-linked companies (GLC) to provide work for both bumiputras and non-bumiputras.
On Tuesday, MCA vice-president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek questioned the ruling, asking how Malaysia could compete globally if a government-linked company like Maybank still adopted such a position.
Wanita MCA chief Datuk Dr Ng Yen Yen, who is Deputy Finance Minister, expressed regret with Maybank, saying the condition had no legal basis and was certainly not in line with the spirit of the Federal Constitution.
Bar Council chairman Ambiga Sreenevasan had earlier described the requirement as discriminatory and said that all lawyers should be judged on merit.
Yesterday, Maybank issued a statement that the bank wanted to emphasise that selection of solicitor firms would continue to be based primarily on performance, efficiency and merit.
“Moving forward and with immediate effect, all solicitor firms, whether with bumiputra or non-bumiputra equity ownership, are eligible for consideration,” it said.
It said all other revised criteria for emplacement of solicitor firms pursuant to its annual review remain unchanged.
DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng, meanwhile, said that Bank Negara should have ordered Maybank to revoke its decision instead of waiting for the Cabinet to act.
“If Bank Negara can order banks to merge, we cannot accept that Bank Negara could not intervene earlier because it was a Maybank internal matter,” he said.
Lim said similar requirements were set out by Ambank Bhd, claiming there had been tacit discrimination by other banks in refusing to parcel out work to those without the 50% bumiputra equity requirement.
However, a statement from the AmBank Group said no restrictions or quota of shares were imposed.
“The group does appoint legal firms that do not have bumiputra partners. This policy has been in place for more than two decades,” it said.
However, to encourage bumiputra participation in the financial services industry, the AmBank Group had always encouraged legal firms to have bumiputra partners, it added.
We are 50 years after independence ...and it feels yucks to see such mentality from both BMM and BNM. I am sure when MBB makes new "standards" that eventually the other commercial banks will follow and BNM (central bank) will sit and watch.
Lucky in this case Government involved or else eventually it will be a de-facto standard. We were better 50 years before. It looks like the 50 years and future is getting more worse....what will be next?
MBB, I suggest you apply the same policy in your business. Every one who wants to open a savings, current, apply loan, buy insurance, buy service and any things that gives business to you .
It makes me think do we ahve a strong Central Bank? And are the comercial banks allowed to as they wish? And where are the consumer rights ... sleeping too?
Are they proactive?