Society has nothing to apologise for but ING does, says VVD MP Roald van der Linde, who is the party’s financial markets spokesman in parliament.
‘It’s MPs who are fuelling public mistrust,’ said Henk Breukink, a member of the supervisory board at ING, in a recent opinion piece in the Financieele Dagblad. When I read this I nearly fell off my chair and I don’t think I can have been the only one.
For years ING has looked the other way as criminals laundered the proceeds of their criminal activities. Far from incidental, this was part of a structural policy which criminals were quick to turn to their advantage while the chic bankers of the ING pretended not to notice. The end result was an out-of-court settlement of €775m, the biggest settlement the Netherlands has ever seen.
As MPs, we represent the people and it is our job to call out these bankers. We are not alone. The finance minister said the practices at ING were ‘extremely serious’. Ordinary citizens are at a loss to understand how their bank could have been mixed up in this and are wondering how it has managed to get away with just a settlement.
I have not been able to detect any signs of remorse at ING. As far as I know it has not written any letters of apology to the customers and shareholders who are paying for this transaction.
I have yet to see an interview with an executive or board member explaining what happened. Instead, Breukink is referring to ‘an industry’ in the broadest sense, which is ‘fuelling mistrust towards big organisations’. But it was ING that was in the wrong – not MPs, not the minister and certainly not the public.
Breukink claims that public trust in institutions is waning. That is true, and it is mostly down to the credit crisis and the role of big financial institutions in it. It is up to those institutions to rebuild that trust and avoid a repeat.
Looked the other way
ING workers have looked the other way, and they did so knowingly. Until now they have escaped the consequences, hiding behind the system. I am a lawyer and even I find this difficult to explain. Try applying the same reasoning to an ‘outlaw’ motorcycle club: only the chairman steps down but the boys can carry on because they were just doing what the club system asked of them.
The VVD is a party that wants a good climate for businesses in this country, with a strong financial sector. But we also want a country in which companies have their house in order.
We need the banks to tackle terrorism and other crimes and we need them to support sustainability and finance new innovative businesses. That means all sides will need to come together and discuss effective regulation and joint action plans. It is up to ING to take up the challenge and show it can regain people’s trust.
This article appeared earlier in the Financieele Dagblad
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