Welcome to the banana republic of Austria

Posted on:April 16 2007

Some months ago a big U.S. company bought a part of the house bank of Austria, named BAWAG. And the first step it now did was cancelling the accounts of numberous clients, depending on their nationality.
If you have a pass from Belarus, Myanmar, Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Iran, Cuba, Liberia, North Korea, Sudan, Syria or Simbabwe, you'll simply got kicked out. And it looks like they cancelled the accounts of Austrians which are former citizens of those nations as well. Maybe - depending on where you live - it is normal for you that you cannot do certain things like flying, buying cars or having bank accounts if you are from special countries or your name sounds similiar to one on a 100.000 entries containing list, but something like this was totally unusual here. Until now. I cannot eat as much as I want to vomit now. Ok - If a private company decides to do something like this, it's their decision. But IMO it gets ~a bit~ worse if the house bank of the state of Austria is doing this.


is this legal to cancel a economic relationship (dunno if thats the the right word) without or with such a reason?


btw: isnt it "you'll simply get kicked out"? :P
2007-04-16 18:29:00

Hi Niko! Being from Austria, I'm also ashamed of this issue, but let me put some things right:

1.) The BAWAG is not the "house bank" of the republic of Austria, but it was the house bank of the SPÖ - the austrian social democrats party - until the aftermath of the REFCO scandal.

2.) Austrian officials condemned the discrimination of customers because of their origin to be a violation of human rights.

3.) Today the BAWAG is a private company. It's major shareholder is american and therefore wants to comply with U.S. law. Since a private company can choose it's customers just as it wants there is nothing to be done against the BAWAG's decision.
2007-04-16 18:52:00

yep, you're right in some points, thanks for correcting this, should have written this more precisely. But it's still really bad.
2007-04-16 19:16:00

It is really a shame that US laws are so intrusive on international companies, and that US laws have an actual impact on the daily business of non-US-companies (and BAWAG, although owned by a US company, is stilled based in Austria).

@Michi: you are a cheap apologist. No other country is so invasive in money- and business-related issues on foreign companies as the US, and you defend this totally unacceptable behaviour. Even when the owner is from the US, BAWAG's company headquarters are still located in Austria. It's only US-American egoism that makes BAWAG's parent company force lunatic laws like the Helms-Burton-Act or the Sarbanes-Oxley-Act force upon its subsidiary. Trying to apologize this crazy behaviour with "oh, every company is free to select its customers" is pure BS: BAWAG is still located in Austria, the contracts regarding bank accounts have been concluded on Austrian soil between an Austrian company and Cuban citizens, none of which shall be influenced by US laws.

On a sidenote: BAWAG _is_ the house bank of Austria, because Austria has the majority of its bank accounts there (scary, isn't it). I really hope that BAWAG will be punished for its totally unethical and unacceptable behaviour by its customers.
2007-04-16 19:41:00

It is just plain wrong. Consider these:-
1) Individual may have different political stances then their local politicians.
2) Business shouldn't intermix with politics. It is one of the recipes for disaster.
3) Yes, USA law or whatever shouldn't be taken as 'Universal Law' so don't enforce your politics bias in other countries.

Btw, correct spelling for Simbabwe is Zimbabwe.
2007-04-17 07:38:00


I think kicking out the customers was a little overboard unless there had been a sanction against the country or something.

As the United States is my home and I'm a born citizen here, I do defend the country though I will be the first to admit that we're not perfect. I mean, which country is? :D

When it comes to decisions from a country that look stupid, I guess it could look stupid someone from another country because they aren't used to the way they do things. That's why they call it culture shock. :)

Experienced it twice in Okinawa, Japan, where I lived for seven years of my life.
Jonathan Snyder
2007-04-17 15:59:00

I am from Belarus and I stayed in the US for two years, opened 2 accounts in different banks there - no problem. There must be probably some other reason.
2007-04-18 19:03:00

Michi, I am in no way familiar with the situation. In fact, I've heard about this issue here for the first time. But ain't their anti-discrimination-laws in Austria too? I mean, sure there is a freedom of making (or not making) contracts, but if these are solely based on origin of the people, it is discrimination. If there are contradicting laws in two countries, you have the option, to not do this kind of business at all, or to somehow abide to both countries' laws. What is the specific problem anyway?

I'm really interested to learn what and what not applies here.

@Jonathan Snyder, but this is an Austrian bank, operating in Austria. And on another note, I am German and I don't defend my country, if I feel it is a foolish thing to do. Being a countries' citizen doesn't mean you have to support everything the gov does. This way you never improve anything. Don't get me wrong, I was in the army, and I've got no problem with defending my country physically, if necessary. But if I differ with the ideas my government has (more often than not), then I voice my opinion and do everything to thwart the decision, this is my country after all and thus my responsibility to look after it. There are people in your (and any other) country who do just this and nobody should let them do this undisputed. :) If you don't express your opinion, then others will, and they might have completely opposite ideas.
2007-04-19 00:05:00

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