A plea for fair and just deal

Dear Editor,

Re:  Banks injustices and Defamation 

Firstly Sir, I want to make it clear from the outset that I have been hesitant for a very long time to tell my side of the story. But the 04th September 2016 Sunday Samoan Observer Mortgagee Sale Notice of my property (the FIFTH time now) has finally triggered me to write this letter. I write this letter as a plea to the bank for a fair and just deal.

 Late 2011, I went to see Mr David Street (Senior Manager) Westpac Bank of Samoa to query fees discrepancies and interest overcharges on my Loan and Business Accounts.  Mr David Street denied my claims and brushed me off. According to my calculations and findings there are significant  discrepancies and overcharges estimated to about $100,000.00SAT.  I tried a few more times to meet with the Bank but to no avail. 

Straight after this I decided to give my findings to our Accountant, Lesa ma Penn. Lesa ma Penn confirmed and verified that my findings were correct. From this verification report Magele Arthur Penn advised me to set up a meeting with the Bank and he will accompany me to this meeting to further ascertain my findings and their report. Mid-March 2012, Magele and myself met with Mr Mark Small (Senior Manager) and Mr Palaita Lafoga at Westpac Bank.

Again the Bank refused to acknowledge Lesa ma Penn professional verification report of the Bank’s discrepancies and overcharges. Mr Small insisted that they were normal bank fees and charges. As we walked out of that meeting Magele advised me to seek Legal Advice. 

Instead I met with an ACEO of Central Bank regarding Bank fees and charges. After explaining to him my situation, he told me that the Government had given Banks the authority to charge their own interest rates, fees, charges etc. He even told me not to waste my money and time to go against the Bank. At this time too the Bank had referred my accounts to their Lawyer. 

While looking for Legal Representation we decided to give our accounts to Mr John Stunnenberg, Business Consultant for a second opinion. Again Mr Stunnenberg confirmed our findings just like Lesa ma Penn did.   

Initially we sought Legal Representation with Lawyer 1. 12th October 2012, Lawyer 1 wrote to Westpac Bank Lawyer asking for a meeting to discuss matters (re fees overcharges and discrepancies) and to suspend recovery action as we were seeking refinancing. All the while we were seeking refinancing with other Banks. Every Bank we went to turned us down. We were told that the Banks have a common bureaucracy not to refinance default and mortgagee sale clients. 

1. 18th November 2012, 1st Mortgagee Sale Notice appears on Sunday Samoan Observer, Page 59. Mortgagee Sale date 13 December 2012, 2pm. 

2. 09th December 2012, 2nd Mortgagee Sale Notice appears again on Sunday Samoan Observer, Page 37.

11th December 2012 Lawyer 1 called us in to allay Westpac Bank’s Lawyer’s reply to our request. “That the Bank is correct and they are going ahead with their mortgagee sale.”  We came out of their office and straight into Lawyer 2’s Office. We were desperate, frustrated, stressed with only 2 days to seek redemption of our property. 

Lawyer 2 after lengthy discussion advised that due to time constraints they were not able to stop the sale by court injunction. But for us to prepare for lawsuit against the Westpac Bank for Loss and Damages after the sale. With no refinancing package secured, we had no other choice. Lawyer 2 prepared our Affidavit against the Bank itemising all our grievances and discrepancies disputes.  

13th December 2012, 1st Mortgagee Sale, was stopped by Cyclone Evan. 17th December 2012 our Affidavit was delivered and received by Westpac Bank. Lawyer 2 told us to secure refinancing by any means so we can settle Westpac Bank and salvage our land and property. Needless to say our Business and home were badly damaged by the Cyclone. Insurance cover lapse since 2011. 

Again I revisited all other Banks desperately seeking refinancing. Same answer, sorry, even after explaining to them my situation with Westpac Bank. One Bank (Bank 2) eventually was willing to help and verbally offered a fixed amount.  And he even made this offer personally on the phone to Westpac Bank. But offer was rejected. 

However Lawyer 2 told us to go get more finance as this may not be enough for settlement. And since we were badly affected by Cyclone Evan we also applied for the Cyclone Evan Relief Fund, Bank 3. 

3rd February 2013, 3rd Mortgagee Sale Notice appeared in the Sunday Samoan Observer, Page 45, with 2nd Mortgagee Sale date now set for 28th February 2013.

All this time we kept asking Lawyer 2 whether Westpac Bank Lawyer had replied to our Affidavit Grievances Letter delivered to them 17th December 2012.

21st February 2013 Lawyer 2 called to tell us that Westpac Bank Lawyer replied stating that the grievances and discrepancies we raised in our Affidavit Letter 17th December 2012 are serious and they need more time to look into them.  

24th February 2013, 4th Mortgagee Sale Notice appeared in Sunday Samoan Observer Page 52. 

26th February 2013 Lawyer 2 called us in that Westpac Bank Lawyer has replied and stated in their reply that his client had checked and confirmed that they are correct and they are going ahead with their 2nd Mortgagee Sale dated 28th February 2013. 

This time we told Lawyer 2 to file for Court Injunction to stop this 2nd Sale.  CJ Patu Tiavasue approved our Court Injunction and this 2nd sale was stopped. 

First Court hearing, the Judge asked Westpac Bank Lawyer “the validity of Hillary Yandall’s  claims as per submissions” issued by Lawyer 2. Westpac Bank Lawyer stated  that  they were untrue and unfounded that Westpac Bank’s calculations and figures were correct. The Judge then questioned Westpac Bank’s Accounting Personnel Qualifications and Credibility “seeing that Hillary Yandall has gone and employed and paid for 2 professional accounting firms to check his accounts and both accountants confirmed and verified his findings.” Due to these conflicting figures the Judge instructed both parties to try and solve the matter and come to an agreement figure within two weeks out of court but if it comes back to court he will make his ruling.

Not long after this; we heard and saw that Westpac Bank had hired Maryann Lameko Vaai. And it was only then that Westpac Bank finally issued a full reconciliation of our Accounts, compiled and completed by Maryann Lameko Vaai itemising the Bank’s discrepancies and overcharges thus confirming our findings and our Accountants reports with relatively similar figures. 

We received Maryann’s  report  April 2013,  we met with Lawyer 2 who advised  us to settle at amount given by Westpac Bank. I told Lawyer 2 that the Bank should pay for all my legal fees, the 2 accountancy firms financial reports fees and all other related costs especially defamation. 

Bank 2 now fulfils its verbal offer but with extremely unfair and unreasonable criteria. Repayments set at $4000.00 a week for less than 3 year term. 

Eventually we settled at the price less than Westpac Bank’s redemption price but it was not in our best interest because we ended up footing all the legal fees, accountancy fees and all other related costs. Furthermore only after the settlement was signed, then Lawyer 2 explained to us this was a “full and final settlement”. 

We walked out of Lawyer 2 office that day though happy we got our land and business back but frustrated and empty, feeling and knowing that full justice was not done. 

One week later we went back to Lawyer 2 (Senior Lawyer)  and expressed our disappointment with our settlement. I stressed that Westpac Bank had gotten the better end and I wanted to sue them for their oppressive, unfair, negligent bullying and defaming manner they treated me, my business and family for the last 3 years. 

Lawyer 2 then advised me to prepare and give informations/materials in support of my intending lawsuit. But then 2 weeks later we find out at a family meeting that Lawyer 2 was standing for a family who was going against us in another matter and Lawyer 2  had been representing them all along while they did my case against Westpac Bank. Clearly a conflict of interest so I never went back to follow through with my lawsuit against Westpac Bank. 

Again I visited another ACEO at the Central Bank and reported these severe injustices and defamations against me by Westpac Bank. Knowing that the Central Bank’s role as Governor/Ombudsman of all Banks and it is their responsibility to oversee these matters. ACEO acknowledged my complaints and said to leave it to him to investigate. To date I still have not received an update of my complaint and Westpac Bank is no longer here.

In summation this matter should have been solved way back in late 2011 when I first went to David Street and told him that we’ve found huge discrepancy estimated up to $100,000.00 in our Loan and   Business Accounts. The simplest and noblest thing the Bank should have done was to listen to our complaints and check our accounts for any verifications of our claims. But they did not and they  refused to listen us. 

A very close friend of ours found discrepancies in his accounts with a local Bank. He met with his Bank officer and pointed it out. The Bank checked and confirmed he was correct and they adjusted his accounts accordingly and the matter was resolved.  

Our question is WHY 

Why did it go this far? Why did it go this way? Why didn’t Westpac Bank listen to our complaints? Why did they overcharge us by so much $100,000.00? Why did we have to go to court to prove our point? Why did we have to waste so much more  money (Legal, accountancy, consultation fees and other related costs estimated at $80,000) to pay for their mistake? Why did we have to suffer so much injustice, bullying, oppression, emotional distress, anxiety, ridicule, humiliation, defamation? 

Why did Westpac Bank try so hard to silence us? Maybe they had something to hide. Because the only explanation they gave us was that “it was a computer error.” Westpac Bank left with their tail between their legs but if Central Bank had done its job they would have left without their balls too.

Who knows maybe that’s why they left Samoa.

Now, we are positive that more customers were overcharged but did not know about it. If you were a Westpac Bank customer around this time we suggest that you go back and check your accounts for any discrepancies. If we are correct maybe we can all get together and file a lawsuit against Westpac Bank for compensation. 

Right now, Wells Fargo one of the biggest banks in the USA has been investigated and is being fined USD$185million for fraudulent accounts and has to refund USD$5million to customers. 

Why didn’t Central Bank help us to investigate our complaints? Latest newspaper reports of a couple from Greece being jailed for investment scam after investigation by the Central Bank and proven by the court. Why didn’t the 2 ACEOs listen to my claims? Do we have to report it straight to the CEO/Governor for any investigation to be done? Or even to see the Minister/Prime Minister? 

Our Business has been mortgaged sale twice, appeared in Samoa Observer and Newsline newspapers numerous times in the public notices sections. We have been defamed to the extent that the Banks and Business community do not believe in us. 

Bank 2 has issued us our 3rd mortgagee sale notice. It appeared in the Sunday Samoa Observer two Sundays ago. It may very well be in today’s issue too. Bank 2 repayment scheme was so unfair and unreasonably high I was set up to fail.

My land is valued at $1.488million tala. Bank 2 Redemption price is $660,307.45 less than 45% of Land Value. I am still in Business, struggling but in partnership, selling average of 6,500 litres of fuel every day approximately 40,000 litres per week @ .11 sene profit margin . 

All I am pleading for, and have been for a long very time is a Bank to give me a fair and just deal.

Hillary R Yandall

Apia Park  

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