SUCCESS DESPITE EVERYTHING
Cooperative Credit Unions earned over 250 million zlotys in 2013. – If he were not harassed all the time, our result would be much better – says Rafał Matusiak, the chairman of the National Credit Unions
Credit Unions informed about their financial conditions during a special press conference. It was organized after 18 February when the Constitutional Tribunal made a statement about the contested regulations of Finance Minister concerning Cooperative Credit Unions.
It concerns two regulations issued by the Finance Minister on 30 December 2011 and 15 January 2013, which were contested by groups of MPs. Parliamentarians pointed out that the regulations breached economy freedom of Cooperative Movement and were discriminatory for the Credit Unions among other subjects on the market of financial services. They also had a negative influence on financial results of the Credit Unions. The conviction of unconstitutionality of provisions of the Finance Minister was supported by the official attitude of the General Prosecutor.
Although the Constitutional Tribunal rejected the convictions of unconstitutionality, there was one separate sentence in a team of three people of the Constitutional Tribunal. It was submitted by the chairman of the adjudicate team – the judge Wojciech Hermeliński. In his opinion provisions of the Finance Minister should be acknowledged as contradictory with the constitution.
What is interesting, these provisions had stopped being binding before the verdict of the Tribunal. – Great thanks should be addressed to MPs who had contested these regulations because thanks to it, the Act about the Credit Unions was novelized, and then the Finance Minister issued new provisions – explains the chairman Marusiak.
So, the purpose has been achieved because now the provisions are better than those which were contested to the Constitutional Tribunal. According to prof. Henryk Cioch, at present these principles are not as strict as the previous ones. – These regulations were significant at the moment when the Credit Unions were being controlled by the Commission of Financial Supervision. At that time audits were made, and financial results of the Credit Unions were distorted – says a senator Cioch. After filing a complaint by the MPs the Finance Ministry accelerated works and issued the third regulation which is binding at present. – Principles have been liberalized. There is no need to contest them to the Constitutional Tribunal – says the professor.
Good condition in bad conditions
According to the initial data of last December the balance of the Credit Unions was positive and was over 252 million zlotys. A number of members of the Credit Unions increased as well as assets – to over 19 milliard zlotys.
- These results are the reason for pride, and they also prove that the model of the Cooperative Credit Unions, functioning on the market for over 20 years is reliable – emphasizes Rafał Matusiak.
This success has been achieved despite the unstable legal environment of the Credit Unions and restrictive actions of the Commission of the Financial Supervision hampering the Credit Unions their everyday work. – So, these are the effects of work in very hard conditions. We had to fight in continuously changing expectations of the Commission of the Financial Supervision and with a bad image created in some media – says the chairman of the National Credit Unions.
During two years the Finance Ministry issued three different regulations concerning particular principles of accountancy of the Credit Unions. Whereas an example of the particular intensity of the actions of the Commission of the Financial Supervision towards the Credit Unions can be a number of letters addressed by the supervisor to the National Credit Unions.
- Since October 2012 we have received over 800 various letters from the Commission of the Financial Supervision. It looks that the present year is also going to be effective. 65 such letters have already arrived till 10 February. It is a real avalanche of correspondence – says Matusiak. – The letters must be analyzed and replied to, and it is also necessary to find time for the current activity.
Expectations of the Commission of the Financial Supervision towards the Credit Unions are diametrically changing, which increases the chaos more and hampers fulfilling everyday duties by workers, that is, work for the sake of members of the Credit Unions.
- As chairman of the Credit Unions I feel like a person who was sat in a car on a driver’s seat. However, a clerk of the Commission of the Financial Supervision is sitting next to me and it is him who is holding the steering wheel and is pressing the accelerator and brake. The problem is that if there is an accident, it will be me to be responsible for what will happen – concluded Rafał Matusiak.
Credit Unions too good
It has been known for a long time that the Cooperative Credit Unions has been on the target. The Civic Platform did not approve of supporting the Credit Unions by the Law and Justice party, especially by the deceased president Lech Kaczyński. For, the Cooperative Credit Unions have a solidary pedigree and in a natural way they are closer to the right-wing party than to the liberal centre or the leftist-wing party.
So, we can say briefly that the Civic Platform supports commercial foreign banks and the Law and Justice party supports the bottom-up Cooperative Movement with the Polish capital. Surely the Civic Platform would not be attacking the Credit Unions so much, if they had not become an effective competitiveness for the banking sector. – If we were not developing so quickly, we would be left alone. These were commercial institutions which were to have monopoly for modern financial instruments, and we were to offer only unleavened banking – said the former chairman of the National Credit Unions Grzegorz Bierecki two years ago.
Opponents of the Credit Unions defined their attitude. Donald Tusk had said about his plans of fight against the Credit Unions before he took over the authority in Poland. – We were hardly effective in this matter. But we saw the issue of the Credit Unions, we were informing the public opinion. Hence, among the others, a series of articles in the weekly ‘Politics’ – said Tusk in 2006. The matter got accelerated when the Platform took over the authority, especially when the economic crisis started. For it turned out that the banking sector had big financial problems and the Credit Unions not. They survived the whole crisis and their position on the market of financial services was still growing.
- The issue of the Credit Unions must be structured – said Janusz Palikot in 2009, the prominent politician of the Civic Platform at that time. As he admitted himself, the Credit Unions had registered quite a good result in the crisis in 2008. The conclusion is that the Credit Unions, which want to be separate from banks, have the biggest profit in the crisis. – My idea is simple. We must submit an initiative of comprising the Credit Unions with the banking supervision. A suitable Act is already in the hands of a parliamentarian Neumann. It only requires exacerbation – said Palikot.
The political fight against the Credit Unions started in 2009 when the MPs of the Civic Platform enforced the novelized Act about the Cooperative Credit Unions. The legislative process of this law has passed into history as a project which became famous for the biggest number of complaints to the Constitutional Tribunal. President Lech Kaczyński contested 72 articles of the new Act. However, Bornisław Komorowski decided to change the decision of his tragically deceased predecessor and issued even 70 articles to the Constitutional Tribunal.
We can only assume that it is all about politicians here who have been related with the strong banking fraction in the Civic Platform for years. Till now the projects of the Acts about the Credit Unions have been branded, among the others, by Jakub Szulc(the former employee of the BPH Bank), Sławomir Neumann (Nordea Bank) and the former parliamentarian of the Civic Platform Jarosław Urbaniak (Invest Bank).
As a result, law created by the governing party is made in such a way as if its authors were chairmen of banks, who wants to prevent outflow of their clients to the Credit Unions. So, it can be said that the Credit Unions are the victims of their own success. The political campaign against them would not be so aggressive, if Poles did not transfer their savings into the Credit Unions is such massed numbers.
According to the new law, the Commission of the Financial Supervision can introduce commissary management and join the Credit Unions to the ordinary commercial bank. It may mean in practice expropriation of members of the Cooperative Movement, which is the Credit Unions and passing their property to the bank.
- This provision was filed to the Constitutional Tribunal even by president Bronisław Komorowski. For the assets of the Credit Unions is a private propriety and the Commission of the Financial Supervision cannot take it away from the members of the Cooperative Movement in order to give it to somebody else – emphasizes prof. Cioch, an expert in the sphere of cooperative law. – Finally, the statement of the Constitutional Tribunal is a prelude to the main issue. I hope that till July 2014 the Constitutional Tribunal will consider the motions submitted by a group of MPs for Sejm, senators and also by the President of Polish Republic, contesting some provisions of the so-called big novelization of the Act about the Credit Unions.
Millions of victims
The former chief of the National Credit Unions Grzegorz Bierecki often warned that the actions of the Finance Minister are a part of a plan to destroy the Credit Unions. Their purpose is to present a financial situation of the Credit Unions in a worse way than it looks in reality, and hinder their stability.
So, it is acting for a harm of over 2.6 million members of the Credit Unions. There may be much more victims because whole families of the members use the Credit Unions. – It is an open attack on the interests of a few million Polish citizens. Only because somebody in the governing party invented a story that the members of the Credit Unions are electors of the Law and Justice party. In this way they want to oppress the electorate of the opposition – says Prof. Cioch.
Economic parameters are deliberately arranged in such a way so as to weaken the market position of the Credit Unions. Besides, a brutal campaign has been introduced in the media, which discouraged many potential clients and slowed down the development of cooperative financial services in Poland.
- If we were acting on the rules from 2012 ago, our financial results would be much better. Today it is difficult to estimate this loss, but we will calculate them one day – says Rafał Matusiak.
For over 20 years of the activity of the Credit Unions, none of their members have lost one zloty, none of the Credit Unions has gone bankrupt. At the same time a dozen banks went bankrupt and hundred thousand people had a trouble with regaining their savings.