Banks should consider abolishing positions specifically created to maintain close contact with Finance Ministry officials, the head of the banking industry federation said Tuesday.Naotaka Saeki, president of Sanwa Bank and chairman of the Federation of Bankers Associations of Japan, put forward the proposal following the arrest Monday of two bank inspectors from the ministry.The two officials are charged with receiving bribes from bankers who occupied positions popularly known as “MOF-tan,” meaning “employees in charge of the Ministry of Finance.”Sanwa Bank is one of four banks whose employees allegedly bribed the ministry officials in question with lavish entertainment. Saeki described the position as a “sort of a hotbed” for scandals such as that being currently investigated. Sanwa Bank “will consider the matter in the direction of eliminating” the position “as soon as possible,” he said.The bankers’ federation as a whole will also have to discuss any such reform, he added. In the current case, “MOF-tan” employees of the four banks — Sanwa, Dai-Ichi Kangyo, Hokkaido-Takushoku and Asahi — allegedly bribed the officials to obtain information concerning the ministry’s plans to inspect the banks.Saeki said he feels responsible for the incident and will take appropriate action if his bankers are arrested, although he stopped short of saying he would resign.Saeki admitted that he himself worked as a “MOF-tan” about a decade ago, adding that he “of course” entertained Finance Ministry officials with dinner and golf. But he said his actions were no different from those of others in society and he does not consider them to constitute acts of bribery.His job at the time included explaining the bank’s situation to the ministry and applying for ministry approval of the bank’s new branches. He denied asking ministry officials for information on the dates of bank inspections or ordering subordinates to discover such information.Saeki emphasized that “MOF-tan” employees were once necessary because of strong government regulation of the banking industry, but admitted that the need for such posts has diminished as deregulation has advanced in recent years. But Saeki said he is not considering a ban on bankers dining with ministry officials if each person attending the get-together pays for himself, he said.
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