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Slow Justice? Take the Money and Run

The complaint of Italian citizens who feel cheated by a foreign bank and slow justice

by Sheila Meneghetti and Franca Berno

Franca Berno e Sheila Meneghetti, le fondatrici di TUCONFIN, associazione che raccoglie migliaia di cittadini italiani che sono in causa con la Barclays Bank

Certain foreign banks take advantage of the Italian justice system- in fact, Italians have to wait for years in order to get their own rights back, after being fooled by big industries that are using this "slow justice" to leave Italian territory without receiving any damage


Foreign businesses are not investing in Italy and the Justice Minister, Andrea Orlando, is doing all he can to come up with incentives.

Doing what? By coming to New York and applauding the efforts made by Prime Minister Renzi’s government to shorten the average timeframe of law suits in Italy. Italians have been requesting this for ages- but are we so sure that “swift justice” is now a reality?

In a word, no. And the ones complaining are Italians, who have to wait years before their rights are acknowledged, often being hoodwinked by major companies exploiting the traditional snail’s pace of the country’s red tape and then running away, leaving behind a trail of damage but suffering none themselves.

One case in point is Barclays Bank Plc. Although this bank has been found guilty of rigging LIBOR ratesrigging EURIBOR rates, and rigging exchange rates in countries throughout the world, it is now leaving Italy to turn its attention to the American market before anyone has pronounced final judgment on the issue of EURO mortgages indexed to the Swiss Franc.

Why “cry wolf”? Because the hoped-for convictions would also apply to these mortgage contracts; yet the powers-that-be who are supposed to intervene are pretending not to see the problem.

What about CONSOB, the Italian public authority responsible for regulating domestic financial markets? Or the Bank of Italy? Not a word. Or the Banking and Financial Ombudsman? This sides with the borrower but has no real power in itself.

Although a total of 9,978 families have been affected, only a small number are protesting, because the information material for these EURO mortgages did not clearly spell out to borrowers that in actual fact they were taking out a Swiss Franc mortgage.

Unaware and uninformed of how index mechanisms work, these borrowers accepted conditions that were already unfavorable when they signed on the dotted line. And the end result? A decreasing balance on paper but not in reality.

Despite making mortgage repayments for years, these borrowers are now finding themselves having to pay further installments as they now owe more than the original mortgage amount.

The crux of the matter is that borrowers only discover the problem when they either request to pay off their mortgages early or, having finished the interest repayments, find themselves with a greater number of installments pending payment. By then, it is too late to do anything and the damage has been done.

Yes, because revaluation has an additional cost. And it is applied to each installment.

Getting a reply is near impossible.

Thanks to a de-staffing program resulting in over 2,000 job losses, there is no longer customer service available at branch offices. All that remains is an email address promising a reply within 48hrs. More often than not, the outcome is silence, so what other options remain?

Calling Freephone 800-205-205 brings no guarantee of a solution either. Given that the job cuts also affected the call centers, most of which had been re-located abroad years ago, customers in Italy end up talking to Italian-speaking Albanian operators about problems relating to a “Swiss” product.

What a farce!

In 2011, Franca and I, two law-abiding mothers, voiced our concern and began filing a series of law-suits against Barclays. In spite of our protests being escalated to Parliamentary level, the bank is still pulling out of Italy, leaving no safeguards in place for their customers.

Thanks to our active protesting, an association called TUCONFIN – CONSUMER FINANCIAL PROTECTION was formed to bolster our quest for justice. Other than this, what else can wronged consumers come up with? Maybe they should in turn become multinationals looking to invest.

While Italian government ministers travel around and brag about their success stories, what goes on in the rest of Europe? Law suits concerning issues such as this are won, the national governments then intervene and law-abiding citizens can go on living.

United and Forward Always!

Learn more about TUCONFIN



Sheila Meneghetti and Franca Berno are the Founders of TUCONFIN 

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