Tyre workshop owner sues Citibank, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Tyre workshop owner sues Citibank

A tyre workshop owner who handed more than $1 million in cheques to his Citibank relationship manager has sued the bank for not following his instructions on what to do with the money.

In court papers obtained by The Straits Times, Mr Yeo Choon Meng, 70, alleged that he wanted to put the money into fixed deposits in his sole name.

But the cheques were deposited into a joint account that his former wife could access independently.

Much of the money was placed in a unit trust and structured products. The unit trust was later partially redeemed, purportedly by his ex-wife.

Mr Yeo said he managed to withdraw only $100,000 from his account. He is claiming the remaining $1.05 million from the bank.

He is also seeking unspecified damages for psychiatric harm, saying that he suffered sleepless nights after discovering what happened to his money.

But Citibank contended that the sums were deposited into the joint account according to Mr Yeo’s instructions, which included the use of the funds to buy investment products.

The bank said Mr Yeo’s former wife, Ms Amy Gay, as well as his two adult children, were all present when he opened the joint account.

Before each transaction, phone calls were made by bank staff to Mr Yeo, usually with a family member present, to confirm his instructions, said the bank.

In his High Court lawsuit filed on Jan 5, 2024, Mr Yeo, who is represented by law firm Tan & Au, said he is financially illiterate and has a low IQ.

In March 2021, his daughter, then a Citibank employee, connected him with a relationship manager from the bank.

Mr Yeo alleged that he was told to sign on many blank forms, and was pressured by the relationship manager to add the name of his former wife to the account.

He said Ms Gay was not present when he signed the form to open the account, and he did not know the relationship manager would get her to sign the form.

Later that month, he also opened an account with Citibank in his sole name.

In late March 2021, he handed two cheques to the relationship manager, totalling more than $200,000. He said he later found out that $199,000 was placed in a structured product.

He said he did not understand the calls made by the bank as they were conducted in English, and that he was instructed by the relationship manager on how to respond in simple English.

Between April 2021 and June 2022, Mr Yeo handed over cheques totalling more than $900,000. He said he gave instructions for the money to be put in fixed deposits in his sole name.

He said he later found out that the money was put into the joint account, with much of the money placed in financial products.

Various loans were also taken out against the joint account.

Mr Yeo said he found out about these matters only after he received a phone call from the bank in June 2023 to make loan repayments.

Citibank, which is represented by Allen & Gledhill, contended that Mr Yeo was an experienced businessman who had banking and investment experience. 

The bank said that despite the divorce, Ms Gay was still involved in Mr Yeo’s workshop business, as well as in the management of his finances.

The bank said Mr Yeo and Ms Gay had decided to invest monies with the bank and wanted to take advantage of a promotion held at the time for new customers.

On March 5, 2021, two Citibank employees went to the Toh Tuck Road workshop to meet Mr Yeo and Ms Gay, who both confirmed that they wished to open a joint-alternate account, said the bank.

The couple’s son and daughter were also present at this meeting, said the bank.

The bank said the relationship manager had explained the risks of the investments at meetings that were also attended by Mr Yeo’s family members.

In particular, his son, an active stock trader and investor, was designated as a “trusted individual”, a person trusted by the customer to attend investment discussions and help to assess the risks and features of the products discussed.

The case is scheduled for a case conference on March 28.