Beating the bank

Wednesday, October 10, 2012    

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DETAILS of the David and Goliath story of Dalton Yap's epic fight against the Jamaica Citizens Bank (now part of RBC Royal Bank) are at last in print.

A Matter of Conduct: The True Story of a Man Who Battled a Bank and Won was launched at Kingston's Dragon Court Restaurant, where Yap was formerly a consultant, on Monday.

In the book, co-written with Alex Lee, Yap tells of his struggle against accusations of fraud and negligence from 1993 until the Privy Council ruling that finally cleared his name in 2002.

The author was born in a village just outside Hong Kong in 1960, but from the age of 12 grew up in Papine, and later Mandeville, before studying at the Radio College of Canada.

He was the respected general manager of operations and technology at Jamaica Citizens Bank (JCB), the first Jamaican-owned bank, when problems arose concerning telemarketers being issued credit card merchant accounts.

The bank claimed that it had issued a policy not to authorise such accounts, and that Yap had acted against that policy, leading to a loss in one case of $2.5-billion.

Not only was he summarily fired for alleged gross misconduct, but the bank sued him, freezing his assets for four years and eventually getting a Supreme Court judgment (later overturned by the Court of Appeal) for $4.5-million for breach of contract and negligence.

The tale also tells of the devastating effects the decade-long case had on Yap's immigrant parents, his wife, his children, and himself. "Few could reach me," he writes. "For that I will never stop seeking the forgiveness of my wife and children. I never meant to walk past them all the times that I did. I just could not see them. I could see no one."

JCB's accusations against Yap had repercussions in his former workplace, too, he reveals. Not only did morale collapse, but his replacement was "constantly checking the path ahead for landmines".

Yap's legal team, meanwhile, unearthed memos and other evidence that contradicted the bank's claim that it had a policy against giving credit card merchant accounts to telemarketers.

In the final judgment, the Privy Council said "Their Lordships ... are satisfied that the Court of Appeal reached the correct conclusion, and that this is one of those exceptional cases where the appellate court was entitled, indeed bound, to interfere with the decision of the trial judge on a matter of fact."

Eventually, Yap would win a settlement for an undisclosed amount of money. He and his family have relocated to Toronto, Canada, where Yap is a successful entrepreneur in the food manufacturing and restaurant field.

The book provides not only a gripping tale of one man's struggle with a large institution but an insight into the workings of financial institutions in the days leading up to the financial meltdown of the 1990s.

JCB was one of the banks rolled into Union Bank of Jamaica as part of the Finsac restructuring of the financial sector.





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