South Africa

‘Blind to race’: WesBank not planning to sue ‘whistleblower’ or investigator – CEO


WesBank will not be pursuing legal action against its alleged former “whistleblower” employee, nor will they be going after a financial investigator.

The vehicle financier was accused of charging higher interest rates to black clients by the whistleblower.

Meanwhile, financial investigator Emerald van Zyl told Newzroom Afrika that – after inspecting 210 contracts sent to him by WesBank customers – he noted disparities in the interest rate charged to black and white clients respectively.

Speaking to The Citizen, WesBank CEO Ghana Msibi denied the allegations, saying the bank’s credit risk-assessment was “blind to race”.

READ MORE: ‘There’s no truth in that’: Wesbank CEO denies charging black clients higher interest rates

No plans to sue – Wesbank

Msibi however expressed his concern about the potential damage caused by the allegations to the bank’s image.

“We sit in a very unfortunate situation where unsubstantiated allegations, which in my humble opinion, are factually incorrect and have not been tested with us – may have caused us irreparable harm with our customers,” he told The Citizen.

Despite this, the CEO revealed that WesBank had no plans of pursuing legal action against the “unknown” whistleblower or Van Zyl.

“We must be careful to talk about a whistleblower [whom] we don’t know, or have any recollection of based on the information at hand, that they’ve even worked for us.” Msibi said.

Receipts please: ‘We have not seen any of those contracts’

According to Van Zyl, he received 160 contracts from black customers and 50 contracts from white customers after putting out a call on social media in 2019 after the whistleblower’s tip-off.

“I was totally shocked to see that black people are paying up to 19% interest rate and whites approximately average 11.25%. That is a massive 8.75% more,” said Van Zyl.

However, WesBank said Van Zyl never engaged them in his investigations, adding they have not laid eyes on any of the contracts.

“We haven’t seen any of those contracts,” Msibi said.

ALSO READ: Wesbank accused of charging its black clients more on interest

Wesbank CEO highlights lack of credit-risk knowledge

Msibi said the incident highlighted the lack of knowledge among the public when it comes to factors affecting their credit risk.

“There is definitely a gap in potentially how customers understand some of the levers that affect their credit-risk profiles.

“So, there’s an opportunity for us to potentially become a lot more deliberate and aggressive in democratising the knowledge associated with how we arrive at these rates.”

Clients urged to engage with bank

The CEO further encouraged customers who may feel that they have been discriminated against, to approach Wesbank with their concerns.

“Engage us, let us speak directly to you because it’s a case by case scenario,” he said.

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