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T&T’s destructive naming and shaming

Published: 
Sunday, April 22, 2018

Following the 1980’s closure of indigenous Workers Bank an unprecedented evil and inherently malevolent pattern of public naming and shaming of its delinquent borrowers emanated, openly humiliating otherwise honest borrowers who fell on hard times following the collapse of the economy, unable to pay their mortgage which at that time had predatory 12 to 16 per cent interest rates.

Large size nefarious advertisements suddenly appeared in daily newspapers with bold prints highlighting the names of their delinquent borrowers no longer favourable to the uneducated lender’s bottom line as if selling people and not their property to rightly recover shortfalls.

You may ask yourself, what really is the reason behind these public embarrassments if not to destroy, as if destroying a decent borrower previously approved by the same institution’s lending parameters would force them to pay when shamed albeit nationally, loss of employment and its ensuing hard times inevitably prevented them from paying, with local bankers having no creative solutions.

During that period many high profile borrowers from prestige neighbourhoods simply went to the bank returning their keys for properties they could no longer pay for, many migrating to greener pastures.

Shockingly, to add perplexing insult to consumers I later opened the centrefold of a leading daily newspaper to see the pictures of 34 delinquent borrowers posted by Nedco, a government micro lender, firm in their belief that their unparalleled act was a morally right action.

Profoundly believing that had I allowed this unacceptable practice to continue, it would have become standard, generating equally illiterate copycats, I immediately sought the intervention of then minister of legal affairs, Camille Robinson-Regis, whose prompt mediation, thankfully, rendered posting photos of delinquent borrowers in our developing society a despicable indignity of the past.

Sadly, on an almost daily basis it is now standard to see many companies today posting “disclaimers” boldly naming employees no longer with them, subtly “warning” potential employers via an elusive naming and shaming tactic cognizant such humiliation wrongfully ascribes at best, a certain modicum of dishonesty on the departed worker, notwithstanding many employees actually resigns for many variances, at times much to the chagrin of management. I have travelled extensively, lived in various countries and have never seen such puerile, egoistical, ignorant, reckless, and destructive practices so bereft of common sense, and even government intervention, such odium being an insatiable desire to besmirch the character of past employees with no arrest, no conviction, at times only an ambitious desire to exercise their inalienable right to move on.

One company was so brazen that they shamelessly posted a “disclaimer” saying the employee had resigned her position. So what?

Further disturbing, landlords of both residential and commercial properties engage bailiffs to seize a tenant’s assets which is quite right under law.

However, I am at a profound loss to cognize the destructive public advertisements later highlighting a ‘bailiff’s sale after levy” in which the tenant’s name is published, producing a double whammy of deep public humiliation after eviction.

If a vehicle is repossessed as is the lender’s right, why is the owner’s number plate being published when the seized assets can be simply sold? Why is Trinidad’s culture so intensely vindictive in publicly destroying people outside of its legal system?

All of these destructive naming and shaming practices against otherwise honest citizens who contributed enormously to their employers and inevitably their country are wholly incongruous to the civil society we all seek to craft, more so when we have a reasonably functioning court system and a horribly despicable prison facility ready to accommodate a dishonest past employee.

To me, these puerile and poignant advertisements more show up signs of blemish in some employers, landlords, and lenders.

Public naming and shaming in this small society is intrinsically destructive and morally wrong, and I strongly propose to employees that they promptly post their own notice on parting, possibly stating they resigned on moral conviction and did nothing wrong, should that be their salient truth.

Trevor Hosten is an entrepreneur and consumer's advocate, and founder of Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) which petitioned Government for, and obtained Trinidad's Banking Ombudsman (now the Financial Services Ombudsman) and the Bankruptcy & Insolvency ACT OF 2008.

Trevor Hosten

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