Black and White

The ruling by St. Petersburg City Court Judicial Division on Civil Cases effectively destroys one of the basic tenets of a market economy, that is, public confidence in the banking system. So we believe we must publish the names of members of the Judicial Division who took the decision: chairman Olga Belisova, Judge Irina Smyshlyaeva and Judge Larisa Vashkina. Currently, the three members of the Judicial Division are responsible for the existence of an official document that guarantees no liability what so ever for banks in regard to their depositors in cases of bank employees malpractice.

First, members of the Judicial Division found that the court of the first instance had incorrect interpretation of the legislation on the protection of consumer rights. The judges decided that part of the legislation on the protection of consumer rights saying that "terms of the contract that shall infringe the rights of consumers as compared to the rules established by the laws or regulations of the Russian Federation in the field of consumer protection, are null and void ......" does not apply in this case. St. Petersburg City Court found a brilliant wording in paragraph 4.3 of the agreement between MDM Bank and Tamara Kostomarova that they decided was more applicable in this case.

This paragraph says:  "the bank shall not be held liable for the consequences of the execution of transactions orders on the account that are issued by unauthorized persons, when in accordance with bank's rules and procedures under the agreement the bank could not establish the fact that persons placing the order have not been authorized to do so.

Moreover, both St. Petersburg city court and the leaders of MDM Bank could care less about the fact that the employees of the bank in issuing Tamara Kostomarova's money to the criminals did not even bother to call her and ask to confirm that she had empowered these people to act on proxy. This is especially strange since the other provisions of the contract require the bank to get proxy letters from the depositor in person. But Kamennoostrovsky office staff, apparently, decided it best to take it easy and just give away their client's money. Why bother if later you can always say that they were not able to establish the fact that persons placing the order have not been authorized to do so.

As for all other arguments that the Court of First Instance based its decision on, Judiciary Division members simply considered them untenable and, therefore, unworthy of their attention. In the reasoning part of the ruling Judiciary Division was referring to something that did not exist. In particular, the reasoning part reads:

"In the course of the trial in the court of first instance the persons who notarized within their authority proxy letters on behalf of the plaintiff, confirmed having notarized the letters, having previously confirmed this fact in the security service of the bank at the time of money issuance."

Who confirmed what to security service of the bank should have no importance from the point of view of the court. But the fact that the notaries did not give such testimony at the hearing in Vyborgsky district court of St. Petersburg  is quite obvious. If the members of the Judicial Division would want to read the record of the hearing, they would have known it. But they were more willing to see something different:

"In addition, the case materials do not state that the plaintiff has revoked the power of attorney stated in the proxy letters. The plaintiff did not file a notice to the police to replace her passport ... ", - says the appeal.

Shall we add that after the incident she did not apply to the registrar for a divorce - but what does it matter? How could Tamara Kostomarova revoke proxy letters she never gave out in the first place? And what does changing the passport have to do with all this? She did not lose her ID, did not spill wine all over it.  She fell victim of criminals, and therefore did what she had to do - wrote a statement to the police.

It is not surprising that with such an approach to the matter members of St. Petersburg Judicial Division on Civil Cases including Olga Belisova, Larisa Vashkina, and Irina Smyshlyaeva concluded the following:  “There are no grounds to believe that rights of the plaintiff as a consumer of the service have been violated by the bank…”

It is peculiar that judge Olga Belokova was already packing her things when she was considering her ruling. Several days before the court hearing scheduled for 28 May 2013 Qualifications Board of St. Petersburg satisfied her pledge of termination of power of a judge starting 24 July. This means that when she was making the ruling she was well aware that for her there was nothing at stake since the 46 year old Olga Belikova was no longer intending to continue her career as a judge.

Such rulings by St. Petersburg city court without a doubt undermine the basis of the market economy, i.e. citizens' confidence in the banking system. Bank can rely on the possibility of settling any matter in court in their favour and do not bother to protect their depositors from the actions of con artists. will continue to monitor the situation. More information to follow.