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Tuesday, 27 November, 2001, 10:41 GMT
Banking gaffes: How honest are you?
David Hickey from Dublin went into a Bank of Ireland branch on November 10 and asked them to transfer 1,500 Irish pounds in pesetas to his Spanish bank account.

However, instead of receiving the going rate of 300,000 pesetas, Mr Hickey was given 300,000 euros - the equivalent of almost a quarter of a million Irish pounds.

Mr Hickey said the first he knew about the mistake was when the bank called him in Spain to tell him they had sent an official to retrieve the cash.

Following the call, he went to the local police station to explain the situation, was handcuffed by Spanish police and brought before a court.

He was later released but asked to report every two weeks until a decision was made about how to proceed with the case.

Mr Hickey has said he is not prepared to give the money back.

Do you think that David Hickey has taken the right course of action? If a bank made an error in your favour what would you do?

This debate is now closed. Read your comments below.

Your reaction:

The bank should take this ideal opportunity to claim free advertising

Jim Dineen, Belgium
In my opinion, the bank should take this ideal opportunity to claim free advertising. I'm sure they would be happy to pay a top marketing company a similar price for a really effective ad campaign and who could refuse to join a bank that is so generous? A tongue-in-cheek advertisement relating to the incident could increase their business greatly and I'm sure Mr Hickey, if allowed to keep the money, would be happy to give them a glowing reference!
Jim Dineen, Belgium

Of course the monies should be returned as it was transferred in error. Barclays once remitted over 400,000 into my account and were quick to take it back. They were right to do so however wonderful on the bank statement!
Michael, United kingdom

I think this man will eventually be forced to give up the cash, after all the laws are there to protect the banks. I would definitely return the cash to its rightful owner, but much like this guy is doing I'd make them jump through hoops first and then say pretty pleeeease.
Peter, UK

Where has this man lost his conscience? Probably, no court can help in this situation, as legally, if confirmed by appropriate banking documents, he seems to be right to hold the money with him. This is only a question of morale, which is absent in this case.
Tatyana T., Russia

When I opened my old account they were supposed to give me a 50 sweetener. They accidentally gave me 100. I didn't complain and 50 extra was hardly going to ruin them. After a year or so another bank offered me a better deal so I switched. They promised me a 60 sweetner. I never got it. When I complained I was told that they had given customers who hadn't yet received their money till the end of last year to ask where it had got to and those that didn't ask by the deadline forfeited their right to it. Unfortunately, the bank 'forgot' to let me know about this so-called deadline. Perhaps it was some bizarre justice, making right the mistake from before and punishing me by an extra tenner for not pointing out the mistake the other bank had made. I say to Mr Hickey: keep that cash at your peril, because there's obviously a higher power out there and he's a banker!
Mark, UK

A couple of years ago whilst making some changes to one of my Direct Debits my bank somehow managed to change the status of my account to the effect that I had died. They then informed everybody who I had dealings with via the bank of my demise. This even got as far as our postman who knocked on the door to express his commiserations with my wife. I even had letters from BT addressed to the executors of my estate. When I pointed out to the bank that I was still alive we all had a jolly good laugh about it and they apologised profusely.

However, when it came to sorting out the account not only did they refuse to inform all those parties that it had told I was dead but informed me that it was my responsibility to ensure that my account details were correct. The problem seemed to snowball from then on and I even had a letter from them implying that I had faked my own death in order not to repay my bank loan. It was only through the honesty of the bank employee who made the original error that I was able, eventually, to sort it all out. Would I give back the money? Probably, but I'd make them sweat for it. Oh, the honest bank employee, what happened to her? made redundant two months later.
Andy, UK

Banks are rather a law unto themselves until they are the aggrieved party

Sue P, France
I would be very tempted to tell him to keep the money but feel the right solution is for the bank to offer him compensation for their mistake and for all his inconvenience. Banks are rather a law unto themselves until they are the aggrieved party.
Sue P, France

The assertion that Mr Hickey has made of "Finders keepers, losers weepers" is wholly unacceptable. If the error caused him to suffer genuine inconvenience or loss then of course he would be entitled to a claim for compensation but to knowingly benefit from a mistake like this is totally dishonest. No doubt he would complain if every bank refused his custom just in case they made a similar error!
George Aitken, United Kingdom

We seem to be missing the point here. If the above story is complete, I suspect Mr Hickey is not keeping hold of the cash because he believes he is entitled to do so, but rather because he quite rightly feels aggrieved at being clapped in irons for honestly reporting the mistake in the first place. Surely the Spanish police only arrested him at the behest of the bank, why else would they care? Yes, he should give the cash back, but he should receive substantial compensation for wrongful arrest and detention. The debate should not be anything to do with the actual accounting error, but rather Mr Hickey's treatment.
Ian Noble, Hong Kong

Where money is concerned honesty is always best. When my bank made an error I told them straight away. Once I found a wallet stuffed with money, I took it to the police station and later an old gent called at my house and gave me a reward.
Howard Stacey, UK

The bank should try to recover the money from the person who made the mistake

Tony Jones, UK
In my opinion, the fact that the bank had the audacity to put at the bottom of the transaction slip that it was not responsible for any errors makes the money his. That statement is to protect themselves. If the error had been in their favour and he had tried to get recompense he would have no chance. The bank should try to recover the money from the person who made the mistake.
Tony Jones, UK

Having had a bank pay someone elses wages into my account whilst an impoverished student, I can understand the blunder. However, the thought of keeping the money never crossed my mind! Mr. Hickey would have soon complained if the mistake was to his detriment!

It is undeniable that the money was put in the bank as the result of a request for an exchange transaction. Therefore there is a contract to supply Mr Hickey with the amount exchanged at whatever rate was agreed at the time of the transaction. If Mr hickey agreed to receive some money at a given rate then that is the only money the bank has a duty to supply him with. Having made the error and pointed it out to Mr Hickey the bank must then enter into a new arrangement with Mr hickey to cover the return of their money. Mr Hickey would of course be perfectly entitled to charge them any amount he deems reasonable for his entire costs and time spent sorting out their mess. I don't know what Mr Hickey's hourly rate is, lawyers can charge hundreds of pounds per hour, but his time spent under arrest and in court will only increase the charges to the bank.
Eoin, London UK

If I make a MISTAKE in my budgets for the month and go overdrawn by accident, some might say by MISTAKE, the bank are very keen to jump on me and charge 25 just for a letter telling me this. Am I able to have them arrested? No. This bank has also made a "MISTAKE." They should learn their lesson by it (as should the entire banking industry) and live with the consequences. After all, we all have to.
Andy, UK

I've had dealings with UK banks when they have made mistakes against me. Even when I've proved to them with receipts etc, they still refused to give me back money that was mine (which they had removed in error from my account). I had to take them to the ombudsmen before getting the money back. I say good on Mr Hickey for standing his ground. At the very least if it ends up going against him, they should compensate for his arrest since it was their fault in the first place. He should also keep any interest to (have you EVER tried obtaining lost interest from a bank after they have made a mistake).
Bill Crawley, UK

I think that he should return the money as it doesn't belong to him

Tom, England
I think that he should return the money as it doesn't belong to him. However, the bank concerned should also give him a good-will payment as its own terms stated that it wasn't responsible for any mistakes.
Tom, England

I have had a similar experience, but involving the smaller some of around 10,000. It occurred when transferring funds from my account in Switzerland to my private account in Spain. I asked the bank to transfer Pts 30,000 but they transferred SFr. 30,000. I discovered the mistake when going to make a withdrawal from the Swiss account and was told that I was SFr. 29,000 in deficit. The bank realised the mistake and asked me if I would please return the money, which of course I did, as should Mr Hickey.
Oscar S. Baldomero, Switzerland

Keep it!

Ian, Sweden
Keep it!! They have said that they cannot be held responsible for errors made by the bank. I know someone who paid a bill to the bank on time, only to receive a letter the following week saying he had not paid and that the bank would charge him 25 for the error. He wrote a letter back, saying that if they check their records they will see that he has paid and that he charged them 25. The error was corrected and he did receive 25!
Ian, Sweden

I recently received 1,300 into my bank account and having just started a new job presumed it was my first month's wages due at around the same time. I found it puzzling that I had not received a payslip however and found out that the money had in fact been paid in by another company. I have no idea who they are and why they paid me the money, I have contacted my bank to try and find out where the money has come from but after a 5 day wait while they went through their retrieval system, they tell me they can't reveal any details because of the Data Protection Act.

I am prepared to give the money back when asked but until then, it will stay in a savings account garnering interest. But I like the idea of Mr Hickey charging the bank an administrative charge - it seems the only way he can get something out of the whole fiasco.
Stephanie, UK

Not only would I give money back that wasn't mine, I have. I got more cash out of a cash machine than I asked for or was on my receipt. The only thing to do was to call the bank to explain what happened, and have them deduct it from my account. The money was not mine, and I could not keep it. It doesn't matter what the amount, the principle is the same. Stealing is wrong. I do think that honesty should be rewarded, but not necessarily monetarily. A letter of gratitude is enough. In this world, trust is all we really have with each other in the end. Let's keep that trust, and the hope that comes with it, alive!
Joe Mason, Alaska

Banks can afford this loss

G Smyth, UK
"Bank error in your favour" - so goes the monopoly chance card. Good luck to Mr Hickey. Has everyone seen the charges banks levy, like charging customers for using a competitor's cash machine. They can afford this loss.
G Smyth, UK

Give it back? No Way. Only when "I made a mistake" becomes an acceptable excuse for being overdrawn, or not paying your credit card bill, should he give it back. Legally, if his receipt says the bank is not responsible for any errors, then tough. I feel for the person who made the mistake, but rules are rules, moral or not.
Phil, UK

It should be remembered that an individual made a mistake, an administrative error. It happens. The money should be returned.

Having been the victim of a well-known bank's errors many times in the past, and having been charged for their mistakes, which took a long time to rectify, I'd say good luck, quickly transfer the money to another account, and enjoy it.
Sue Hudson, London, UK

If the bank were to have deducted money from his account by mistake Mr Hickey would have demanded it back plus compensation. So he should repay the bank the money back less 1 percent.
Mike Allan, UK

A similar situation happened to me when I was in Germany

Paul Haire, UK
A similar situation happened to me when I was in Germany. I was given 300 pounds worth of DM when I only handed in 150 pounds worth (not quite a quarter of a million). Once I realised my mistake I did bring the money back. However, it was touch and go, I was very tempted to spend it. But I think the right thing was to give it back.
Paul Haire, UK

He should return the money, of course. But he should also retain a percentage, say 10%, for the emotional stress involved in being arrested for someone else's mistake.
Luiz A da Silveira, Brazil

Do the right thing - give the money back
Archie Ferguson, Scotland

This guy needs a lawyer

Wiseman, England
This guy needs a lawyer as Spanish law may dictate what happens. A foreign country (Ireland) made the error and what recourse they might have in Spain is really the question.
Wiseman, England

I think the very fact that there is even a debate on the subject says a lot about morals in today's society. There is no debate - he came by the money in error, has seen a chance to profit at someone else's cost and is now using the media to try and engender support for his immoral stance. Incompetence and over-reaction do not justify dishonesty.
Paul Smith, Ireland

The only time I get to keep the money when the bank makes an error in my favour is when I play Monopoly. In real life it has never happened to me but if it did I am sure that I would have to pay it back. After all it isn't my money.
Rhondalin, New Zealand

He would not feel the same way if the error went the other way, would he?

Graham, UK
Whilst his arrest by the Spanish police appears to be over the top considering he didn't know about the situation then (or so he says), he is well aware now that the money is not his, and is only there as a result of an honest error. He should give back the money that isn't his to the bank, although he should be allowed to keep the interest on the money. He would not feel the same way if the error went the other way, would he?
Graham, UK

Years ago my bank credited my account with 1,399 which I immediately realised was a bank error, caused by accidentally shifting a decimal point 2 places to the right. I pointed out the mistake three times to the bank: once by phone, once in person, and once in writing. Amazingly, the bank resolutely refused to admit it had made a mistake and after waiting six months for the bank staff to recognise their error and adjust my balance, I resolved the impasse by spending the money. Not surprisingly, the bank has long since closed down.

Mr. Hickey's situation is different. The bank and Mr. Hickey both know a genuine mistake has been made and the bank has asked Mr. Hickey to return its misdirected funds. The rule of the jungle does not apply and Mr. Hickey is likely to find himself in deep trouble if he spends the money. Given the sum of money involved, an elegant - albeit naughty - solution might be for Mr. Hickey to leave the bank's money untouched in a deposit account and enjoy spending the not inconsiderable interest!
Chris B., England

I remember a case of many years ago where a man received 10,000 into his current account by mistake. Despite his knowing that it was not his money he immediately withdrew it and spent it. He was subsequently prosecuted and found guilty of stealing by finding. Quite right too in my opinion. The man was a thief.
Bernard, UK

Having been arrested, handcuffed and then released effectively on bail for somebody else's mistake, I would return to the bank not one penny until the bank started talking about compensation.
Phil Davies, UK

Having borne the brunt of banking errors to my detriment in the past, would I give it back? Not a chance! I hope that the Irish guy enjoys the sun and sand of Spain on his new-found windfall - I most certainly would!
Murray de Schot, The Netherlands

He should refer to it as administrative charges, and explain to the bank that it's just 'company policy'

John, UK
Perhaps errors such as these will make banks be less heavy-handed with their own petty 'administrative' charges, and less prone to mistakes. God knows the number of times the two banks I'm with have made silly mistakes that have cost me time (and sometimes money). I think the gentleman in question is entitled to a percentage of the money. He should refer to it as administrative charges, and explain to the bank that it's just 'company policy'.
John, UK

Businesses like to make the rules to which customers must adhere, but feel they only apply if the result is in their favour. If, as I believe Mr Hickey claims, the agreement says that the bank is not responsible for errors and they cannot be corrected at a later time, the bank should abide by their own terms of business.
Alex Kerr, UK

Of course he should repay it - it isn't his, the bank has made it clear that the error occurred and keeping the money is tantamount to theft.

If he is correct that the bank transaction had a disclaimer saying that they were not responsible for errors then I think it sounds like the bank has no come back against him. After all those disclaimers are there to cover the banks when they make mistakes in their favour so it should stand for cases when the banks make mistakes in the customers favour.
Dave, UK

Does he have any feeling for the poor bank employee who made an honest mistake?

Hugh, UK
Shame on Mr Hickey. Where does he think the money to pay for his greed would have to come from, and does he have any feeling for the poor bank employee who made an honest mistake?
Hugh, UK

Ludicrous man. So if I order a computer, for example, and it gets delivered to my next door neighbour by mistake, is he entitled to think it's his? Bank errors work both ways of course. Presumably the bank could accidentally transfer money out of his account by mistake if he doesn't cough up.
Rob, UK

Rob, UK - actually under Britsh law if you order goods and they are delivered to the wrong person, that person is not legally required to return them.
Frank, UK

We're all human, we make mistakes and bank personnel are no different. They should be less prone to error than most but it's almost impossible to have 100% perfection when handling large volumes of transactions in multiple currencies. This greedy man deserves to be forced to pay back every penny.
Debbie, UK

I presume that if his account had been debited by that amount then he would be happy to accept that mistake?
Craig B, UK

I sympathise with him but holding on to what you know isn't yours is dishonest. If the error had put the bank in possession of his money or goods he'd be the first to complain.

See also:

21 Nov 01 | Europe
Man defiant after bank blunder
29 Aug 01 | Business
Q&A: Euro cash launch
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