OCBC sued

The confusing case of the year...and it's barely begun!

A WOMAN, whose 93-year-old adoptive mother has sued OCBC Bank for freezing her bank accounts, yesterday conceded that the bank was justified in being suspicious when the two women went to open a joint account nearly two years ago.

The bank refused their application, doubting the elderly woman's mental competence to manage her financial affairs.

But Ms Amy Hsu Ann Mei, 44, said that the bank in its prudence should have found out more about their mother-daughter relationship.

'If they are suspicious of me, they should find out who I am... the number of years I spent with my mum, how long my mum and I lived together, the number of years she raised me,' said Ms Hsu, under cross-examination by the bank's lawyer.

Adopted by Madam Hwang Cheng Tsu Hsu at a young age, Ms Hsu is the only child of the retired teacher.

As Madam Hwang's health deteriorated last year, Ms Hsu was ordered by the court to be her mother's legal representative to continue the suit against OCBC for freezing her accounts containing $8.9 million.

From Straits Times, "OCBC 'did its duty'". (27/01/10)

Also from the same article above, more ABOUT THE CASE:
Yesterday was Day 2 of the hearing into the lawsuit that Madam Hwang Cheng Tsu Hsu, 93, has brought against OCBC Bank for freezing her accounts containing $8.9 million.

The legal dispute arose after Madam Hwang and her daughter Amy Hsu went to the bank to open a joint account but were turned down.

OCBC's stand is that it was acting as prudent bankers and safeguarding Madam Hwang's interests as it had concerns about her mental capacity to handle her accounts.

Madam Hwang, alleging that OCBC has breached its contract by refusing to comply with her instructions, is seeking unspecified damages.

She contends that by locking up her funds, OCBC has deprived her of opportunities to invest in property.

Since filing the suit, she has applied to court for various sums to be paid out as expenses. The balance has been moved to a court account pending the outcome of the case.

As Madam Hwang's health deteriorated last year, Ms Hsu was ordered by the court to continue the suit on her behalf.

Ms Hsu continues on the stand today.

From Straits Times, "OCBC 'did its duty'". (27/01/10)

THE judge hearing the suit brought by a 93-year-old woman against OCBC on Thursday expressed scepticism over why the elderly woman needed monthly expenses of $18,000, including payments for her adopted daughter and her husband.

It was Ms Amy Hsu Ann Mei's third day on the stand in the suit that Madam Hwang Cheng Tsu Hsu has brought against OCBC for freezing her accounts containing $8.9 million.

OCBC's lawyer, Mr Adrian Wong, was trying to establish that Ms Hsu was unduly influencing her mother. Between March and August 2008, Madam Hwang changed her will three times.

One will was made in May, when the person authorised to act on her behalf was changed from her nephew, senior lawyer Michael Hwang, to Ms Hsu.

Mr Wong brought up the fact that before the trial, Madam Hwang had applied for $18,000 to be paid out a month for living expenses.

This included $3,600 for Ms Hsu as her caregiver, $2,000 for a 'driver', who was Ms Hsu's husband, and Ms Hsu's phone bills and club memberships.

From Straits Times, "$18,000 expenses questioned". (28/01/10)

Long before the lawsuit between Madam Nellie Hwang Cheng Tsu Hsu and OCBC Bank reached the courtroom, bank representatives initiated a sit-down to "address" her concerns and to "move forward", OCBC's lawyer Adrian Wong disclosed on Friday.

In return, it received "a slap in the face", two months after it froze the elderly woman's accounts in May 2008.

"We were accused of raising new issues and evasive tactics," charged Mr Wong to Mdm Hwang's only child, Madam Amy Hsu Ann Mei, 44, as she took the witness stand for the fourth straight day.

Mdm Hsu conceded that the bank's overtures were amicable but, at that time, she did not want her mother to be subjected to a grilling by bankers.

Mr Wong shot back: "The dispute was sufficiently serious, and lawyers from both sides would be attending ... so why didn't you agree to come?"

In response, Mdm Hsu - who maintained that she was only acting on her mother's wishes and had remained "passive" throughout the episode - said the intention might have been "miscommunicated".

On day five of the hearing, which involves Mdm Hwang's $8.9-million fortune, Mr Wong said the bank was told that Mdm Hsu had the power of attorney only after mother and daughter tried to close their accounts.

So, why did she not inform the bank of her authority, asked the lawyer? Mdm Hsu only replied: "I didn't know (I had to)."

The bank, the lawyer maintained, was trying to be prudent because of the suspicion that Mdm Hwang was being influenced.

OCBC then received a letter on June 10 from Mdm Hwang, "stating that the matter would be referred to a higher authority", said Mr Wong. The letter was not baseless, replied Mdm Hsu, since her mother "was entitled to express her view towards a service provider".

To which Mr Wong remarked: "Let me just say that if your mother was in control, I'm surprised she didn't carry out (the legal action against OCBC)."

Instead, all the correspondence initiating the legal action - although in Mdm Hwang's name - was signed by the daughter.

The problems between Mdm Hwang and the bank began when the pair tried to open a joint bank account, but were rejected. Bank officers became suspicious when Mdm Hsu gave the instructions, not Mdm Hwang.

During the court proceedings, OCBC lawyers have continually stated that Mdm Hwang, who has mild dementia, did not have the mental capacity to make any decisions on her finances.

Although Mdm Hsu maintained that she is "filial", it was also revealed in court on Thursday that Mdm Hwang's savings was used to pay for Mdm Hsu's mobile phone charges, Tanglin Club membership, National University of Singapore Society membership as well as salary for her and her husband.

The hearing continues on Monday.

From Channel NewsAsia, "OCBC wanted to meet: Lawyer". (30/01/10)

As the trial went into its eighth day, details emerged on Wednesday of the 94-year-old woman who is suing OCBC for not letting her close her bank account.

A former teacher, Mdm Hwang Cheng Tsu Hsu, was born in Mei Xian county, Guandong province, China. Her father was one of the founders of the Bank of China (BOC), and she had three siblings.

The family moved to Hong Kong when Mdm Hwang was six years old. After obtaining her university education, she went to Australia to teach Chinese in an English school.

She met her husband, who also worked in BOC, through mutual friends. When he was posted to Singapore, Mdm Hwang accompanied him and became a Chinese teacher at Chung Cheng High School.

In the 1960s, she adopted Ms Amy Hsu Ann Mei and retired from work to look after her when the girl turned four.

These details were narrated by Mdm Hwang to senior consultant psychiatrist Francis Ngui on Jan 15, 2009 when she was ordered by the court to take a psychiatric assessment.

Taking the stand on Wednesday, Dr Ngui told the court that Mdm Hwang, who has been suffering from dementia since 2000, was an "emotionally feisty elderly lady with a witty personality".

She told Dr Ngui that she was very annoyed that OCBC had locked up her money unreasonably. Mdm Hwang said she wanted to use the money to travel and buy property. She also wanted Ms Hsu to look after her money if her memory worsened.

She spoke clearly and had a knack for deflecting questions when she could not come up with the answers, said Dr Ngui.

For instance, when she was unable to name the Prime Minister and the President, Mdm Hwang said: "I can recognise his face. His name is 'President', that's good enough."

When Dr Ngui visited Mdm Hwang's house last August for a second assessment, the elderly woman was frail and her short-term memory was "significantly impaired".

Based on his interview with Mdm Hwang in January 2009, Dr Ngui told the court that she "had an independent mind of her own" and was "adamant" about closing her OCBC account.

He added that "the presence of dementia is not synonymous with being mentally incompetent to make financial decisions" and it must be severe enough to affect her judgement for her to be deemed incompetent.

Mdm Hwang wanted to close her OCBC account in May 2008 after the bank refused to let her open a joint account with Ms Hsu. The bank refused both requests because it was doubtful of Mdm Hwang's mental capacity to give instructions.

The trial continues.

From Channel NewsAsia, "Psychiatrist report on woman suing OCBC: 'Emotionally feisty elderly lady'". (04/02/10)

In her complaint letter about court-appointed psychiatrist Francis Ngui, she described herself as an "outspoken" person who is helping her ill mother to carry on the lawsuit against OCBC over its refusal to close the older woman's account.

But seemingly worn down by the trial - now into its ninth day - Ms Amy Hsu Ann Mei broke down outside the courtroom on Thursday.

Dr Ngui, a senior consultant psychiatrist appointed to determine Madam Hwang Cheng Tsu Hsu's mental capacity, had said that Ms Hsu hindered his work by being uncooperative.

Halfway through the hearing, Ms Hsu, 44, left the courtroom and cried uncontrollably for almost five minutes. Her husband and a woman tried to comfort her.

Questioned by OCBC's lawyer Adrian Wong, Dr Ngui related on Thursday that Ms Hsu had called him a day after his interview with Mdm Hwang on 15 January 2009, to complain about his having asked her mother how she wanted to manage her finances.

She also wanted to postpone a second interview to be conducted on video in Mdm Hwang's house in February.

When Dr Ngui wrote to Ms Hsu's lawyer to inform that he was unable to complete the interviews, Ms Hsu then sent Dr Ngui a complaint letter.

In it, she said she was only trying to speak up on her mother's behalf to ensure that the interview would be conducted properly. Her mother would never be comfortable with a stranger in her house and is upset with having to record the interview, wrote Ms Hsu.

But Dr Ngui told the court that Mdm Hwang had kept quiet when Ms Hsu agreed to his suggestion then of the video interview.

Asked by Mr Wong what he thought about Ms Hsu's character - based on her letter - Dr Ngui said: "It sounds like she is a very meticulous person, very careful and she covers every base".

He also said that Ms Hsu is "reactive emotionally" and gets upset about events, "especially those concerning her mother" and that "she is close to her mother and she feels for her mother's plight during this difficult time with the banks".

From Channel NewsAsia, "Daughter of woman suing OCBC sends complaint letter to psychiatrist". (05/02/10)

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