This dissertation examines a bank’s right to unilaterally terminate its contractual relationship with a customer on the basis of reputational risk. The law of contract allows a bank to terminate the bank-customer agreement when the customer is in serious breach of the contract. Over the years, however, a pattern has started to develop by which a bank can unilaterally terminate the bank-customer relationship of high-risk customers based on reputational risk. Banks are reluctant to facilitate the transactions of individuals surrounded by negative publicity, due to fears of how the bank’s investors, customers or counterparts might perceive the bank.
Compliance with anti-money laundering (AML) and counter financing of terrorism (CFT) requirements, as set out by both domestic and foreign legislation, results in higher costs for the bank. As such, the profitability of a particular bank-customer relationship may ultimately decline to such an extent that the bank rather decides to make an appropriate business decision by terminating the relationship.
Correspondent banking relationships are agreements in terms of which one bank will provide services for another in jurisdictions where the first bank lacks a physical presence. As such, whenever there is a perception that a local bank does not comply with the relevant AML/CFT laws as set out by its domestic legislation, the correspondent bank might decide to terminate its relationship with the local bank, leaving the latter financially excluded from the correspondent banking market. Such a situation would hinder the growth of the South African economy and may also cause a systemic event in the financial industry.
Adequate customer due diligence (CDD) measures assist a bank in formulating a clear understanding of the business of its customers. The information obtained through CDD may also assist the bank in determining the reputation of a particular customer. This information can also assist law enforcement in combatting financial crimes. In this regard, it is recommended that a bank should be able to trace the information that was shared with Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs) and law enforcement agencies, so that the bank may reasonably determine the level of reputational risk involved in the relationship.
Mini Dissertation (LLM)--University of Pretoria, 2020.