How Not to Behave on Twitter

FNB: A Rotten Tomatoes Award Winner

Mouth and mouth disease... social media always brings the worst and the best in us. But for corporations, shouldn't they know better?

In Brief

“Banks have a new image. Now you have 'a friend,' your friendly banker. If the banks are so friendly, how come they chain down the pens?” - Alan King (1927 – 2004), American comedian and satirist, a fitting reflection since the Financial Services Board appears to have opted for sleep as banks and their executives decide to go rogue… board membership to the South African Fraud Prevention Services up for grabs... even if you are due for public bailout as African Bank Investments Limited… just declare love to one of the big names in the country's banking sector and the seat is yours...

Since the departure of the tech-savvy Michael Jordan from First National Bank, the 2012 ‘world’s most innovative financial institution’ has been slowly but surely losing the plot. Several of the individuals managing the bank’s Twitter account @RbJacobs seem either to lack proper education on the use of social media or they are getting their instructions from someone who couldn’t care less about the consequences of their fewer-than-140-characters.

On April 22, 2014, in response to a tweet query by @gormleystuart on the whereabouts of the bank's ad character, Steve, @RbJacobs (FNB Guy) wrote: “He’s somewhere in Afghanistan, putting a bomb under a wheelchair and telling the cripple to run for it!” The social media community tore into his comments, and it took the FNB Guy some twenty-three minutes to apologise. One would have expected the bank to have learnt some lessons from the whole unfortunate exercise but alas, not so.

After our report exposing the bank’s involvement with SAFPS, a body it jointly with other financial institutions registered as a non-profit organisation, FNB Guy chose to elaborate on the attack on Nav Chan, one of the victims whose ordeal we have been investigating.  Chan had landed in financial trouble soon after he questioned miscalculations of his eBucks.

In an unsolicited response to a Twitter query directed to @maggsonmedia, the FNB Guy posted the following tweet on Saturday: “Hi Daniel, FNB has an ongoing criminal case against Mr. Navneet Chan Bowthnath (‘Nav Chan’ as he is known since 2008). We will … [140 characters done] … “continue to give whatever assistance is required to ensure the matter is fully prosecuted.”

The FNB Guy seemed to have information that our system and team of researchers must have missed. Keen to rectify our errors, we requested details of the so-called criminal cases. This time the response was sent via Direct Message: “Hi Mark, unfortunately I do not have all the details. Please get in touch with our media team on Monday so they can provide the details.”

Really! So on what basis did he make the comments on Twitter that are little short of libellous? Let’s re-cap just a bit of what we have. According to FNB’s own letter of 16 November 2012 – the one that provided a wrong address for Chan – the bank had opened a Platinum Cheque Account (Acc. No. 622024821989) for the victim on 22 November 2008. This account was operated without any issues arising, until Chan queried the calculations on his eBucks earnings.

Navneet Chan Bowthnath - FNB's made-up new client...

The same letter simply announced that his accounts were being terminated because he had presented Salary Advices and a Bank Statement that were inconsistent with his real earnings. There was no mention of Chan being a fictitious name. The bank management must have known that Chan’s family based in Durban had been one of their long-standing financially-sound clients in the area. Where have the new names, Navneet Chan Bowthnath, come from now?

Besides, if it could take this ‘world’s most innovative bank’ nearly four years to question the names of its client, what does that tell us? We have the same bank allocating Chan a Johannesburg address (which they ultimately rectified, without any apologies of course), now, through FNB Guy, assigning him alternative names. This is not an error, but a clear attempt to justify their claims of Nav Chan being a fake.

FNB Guy has now asserted that there are some on-going criminal cases against Chan. Well, that could be true depending on how one looks at it. The records we have in our possession indicate that the report to the Durban Commercial Crime Division of the SAPS was lodged soon after Chan had opened his own cases with the office of the National Credit Regulator against FNB and SAPFS for illegal financial defamation. The SAPS detectives in Durban found the claims against him to ‘lack merit’ and have been waiting for months for the bank to provide the so-called proof.

Records we have obtained from the Department of Home Affairs (particulars from the population register) clearly confirm Nav Chan, born on 22 September 1975, as the true owner of the ID number FNB has on their records. Should the same ID number be linked with Navneet Chan Bowthnath, then the bank has mistakenly blacklisted the real individual while allowing the identity thief, Bowthnath, to continue freely operating. [This would surely not be surprising as we know the kind of people the bank prefers to retain as Private Clients – editor]. So unless FNB would like to argue that the Document No. A329628 issued by the Department is fraudulent, along with every other document belonging to Nav Chan including his passport, ID Book and Birth Certificate, someone senior to Rhoda Moodley and FNB Guy should step in and sort out the mess.

It’s clear that FNB has no sound evidence to sustain any of their claims; if they did, the Durban detectives would have allocated the matter a case number. Could this be a warning shot - don’t question our ways or we shall do our utmost to make your life miserable?