Africans Need Not Apply At Bavarian Bank
Aug. 01, 1994
BONN, Germany (AP) _ Germany's fourth-largest bank acknowledged Monday it often refuses to open accounts for black Africans because of ''bad experiences'' with people of color.
A report in the Suddeutsche Zeitung newspaper quoted an unidentified official at the Bayerische Hypotheken- und Wechsel-Bank AG as saying the institution, known as Hypo-Bank, had a standing rule: ''No Accounts For Blacks.''
The Munich-based bank's spokesman, Hartmut Pfeiffer, denied that. But he said bank officials were often ''overly cautious'' because Hypo-Bank had had ''bad experiences'' with black Africans.
Two reporters from the Suddeutsche Zeitung followed a Mozambican truck mechanic who has lived in Germany for 13 years as he tried to get an account at the Hypo-Bank.
The man was told first that it would take too long to check his references. When he brought in documentation, he was told the Bavarian bank had had bad experiences with black Africans and to take his business to the Stadtsparkasse bank.
At the Stadtsparkasse headquarters in Munich, spokesman Manfred Linsenmann said the bank was happy to have African clients.
''We've had good experiences with clients of color and their business is quite normal for us,'' he said.
Germany lacks anti-discrimination laws. German officials insist that xenophobic violence is an isolated problem.
''In principle, blacks and whites should be treated equally,'' said Guenther Ziegler of the Bavarian Banking Association. However, bankers in the southern German state have had bad experiences with black Africans who ''open an account, withdraw money past their limit, and disappear,'' he said.
Such small-scale fraud is easy because German banks allow clients to overdraw their accounts - typically by up to 5,000 marks ($3,000). Clients are required to pay interest on the overdraw.
Bernd Sprenger of the Federal Association of German Banks in Cologne said it was up to each bank to decide how to handle its business.
''The Hypo-Bank is a house with long tradition that knows what it's doing,'' Sprenger said.
Hypo-Bank released performance figures Monday showing 483.3 million mark ($290 million) operating profit for the first six months of the year, the same figure as in 1993's first two quarters.
The bank lost 468 million marks ($280.8 million) when real estate developer Juergen Schneider failed to repay his loans and fled in April, but its report said that played no role in stagnating profits.
Hypo-Bank and other major German banks have been embarrassed by the Schneider affair, which has shown them as lax in checking the details behind loans. He is accused of inflating the anticipated rental income of buildings on which he got loans and even the size of the buildings, and the banks didn't catch on until after he disappeared.