Wednesday
March 2
2011

NextBillion Editor

Open Feed: Updates, Reactions to Dismissal of Muhammad Yunus at Grameen

Editor’s Note: Today we learned that Microcredit pioneer Muhammad Yunus has been forced out of Grameen Bank, the institution he not only founded, but one credited with sparking the broader social business movement. Despite ongoing investigations and accusations from the Bangladeshi government, the development still comes a shock. We will update related news throughout the day and. We also welcome and encourage comments and reactions from the NextBillion community.

Related media reports:

– The following statement was attributed to Yunus on Wednesday:

Dear Friends


I would like to thank you for your continued expression of support to
Grameen Bank, myself and the work we do with the poor.

After weeks of bullying, several new frivolous legal cases launched against
me, and the pursuit of a vilification campaign in the local press, today, I
was asked by Central Bank officials to step down immediately as MD of the
Bank, for the third time since the beginning of this assault to change the
character of the bank. At 9am, this morning, I was given a deadline of
noon today to resign from my position.

Afternoon, I received an official letter from the Central Bank, declaring
my position of MD illegal as my current appointment “has not been approved
by Central Bank”, and requesting that I should therefore resign
immediately.

There is no legal validity, neither in this process (as hiring and firing
is, according to the Grameen Bank Ordinance, the prerogative of the Board),
nor in the merits of such claims (as the choice of me as MD has actually
been validated by Central Bank in due course).

We will therefore legally challenge this illegal attempt.

I was very encouraged yesterday by the unanimous support of the board,
including the two longer-time government appointed members, and the nine
borrower ladies. The recently appointed Chairman did not feel comfortable
at this. The Government, who owns less than 5% of the equity (and
statutorily could have up to 25%), and only 3 board seats out of 12, is
clearly behaving as if this Bank was not owned by 8 million borrowers, but
was a State-controlled bank.

Our independance and my ability to continue, even in a non-executive
position, are severely and now very concretely being challenged.

I wanted you to be informed that we are now entering into another step of
escalation. I would like to express again all my gratitude for the great support that each of you (and even stronger as such a powerful group), are
bringing to us through this ordeal.

I sincerely hope that our collective efforts will allow a lawful and fair
resolution of the situation. We will continue to be in close touch.

Very warm regards to each of you

Yunus

– Update 2:54 P.M. EST The Hindu reports:

Finance minister AMA Muhith confirmed receiving a central bank letter which termed the holding of office by Dr. Yunus as illegal.

According to the Finance Minister, the government had asked Dr. Yunus to stay away from the bank till a review of the Grameen Bank is over. But Dr. Yunus reportedly rejected the suggestion and said the Grameen Bank would collapse in his absence.

“I don’t think Mr. Yunus can run Grameen Bank throughout his life,” said the Minister and added the relevant law did not allow anybody to stay in the same post for so long.


– Update 11:53 A.M. EST, BBC News Reports:

… a Grameen Bank statement later on Wednesday said that the matter was now “a legal issue” and that the bank had complied with “all applicable laws in respect of appointment of the managing director”.

“According to the bank’s legal advisers, the founder of Grameen Bank, Nobel laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus, is accordingly continuing in his office,” the statement said.


– UPDATE: 9:46 A.M. EST: According to a report from bdnews24.com, Grameen Bank General Manager Jannat-e-Kownie says Yunus still holds the job of managing director.

Claiming that the bank had been following recruitment rules properly, its general manager Jannat-e-Kownine told a press conference on Wednesday, “According to the bank’s legal experts, founder of Grameen Bank and Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus is continuing in his office.”

The media was briefed following a Bangladesh Bank order, which said Yunus was relieved of his duties. Deputy general manager (protocol) of the Bangladesh Bank governor’s secretariat A F M Asaduzzaman confirmed about the order to bdnews24.com.

Kownine said it was a legal issue. “Even the finance minister termed it a legal matter. Grameen Bank is taking advice from the legal experts, who are examining all the legal aspects of the issue.”

The official said, “The Grameen Bank chairman told the press [today] that the central bank has removed Muhammad Yunus as managing director.”

She, however, did not respond to any query from the media.


The Assocated Press reports the official reason for the Nobel Laureate’s dismissal:

Bangladesh’s central bank ordered his removal after accusations he violated the country’s retirement laws, A.F.M. Asaduzzaman, an official at Bangladesh Bank told The Associated Press. Grameen Bank has been notified by letter, Asaduzzman said. He provided no further details.


– From The New York Times:

Government officials have been examining the bank’s books for months, saying that it has lacked proper oversight and governance. But Mr. Yunus’s allies argued that the government was simply trying to discredit a critic. Mr. Yunus briefly floated a political party in 2007 and has criticized Bangladesh’s politicians as corrupt.


– In January, Alex Goodmark from GOOD put together an excellent summary of the course of events that got us here. Many of them point to an attempt by the Bangledeshi government to takeover the bank. He concludes:

Microfinance is growing, but it is also at a crossroads, and MuhammadYunus is still the flag-bearer for the industry. Every microlender will suffer if Bangladesh nationalizes (again) the Grameen Bank in a hostile takeover.

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