What would you do if the bank mistakenly gave you £10 million?

June 14, 2009

There has been a case reported recently where a New Zealand couple applied for a bank overdraft for NZ$10,000. The bank, in their wisdom, mistakenly gave the couple NZ$10 million. Read the whole story here.
Imagine if your bank put a huge amount of money into your account by mistake. What would you do?

How generous is your bank?

How generous is your bank?

I think it’s almost impossible to say until you’ve actually found yourself in the situation.
I’m sure we all think we know what we’d do.
Some people will argue that you must give it back. Morally, you are obliged to.
Others will take the view that it’s the bank’s own stupid fault. Especially at the moment.
I’m sure more people now would at least think of keeping it. Well who’s got any sympathy for the banks these days?
In the New Zealand case, the banking ombudsman siad “it is generally considered a criminal offence for people to spend money accidentally deposited into a bank account if they are aware that the cash is not theirs.”
Another commentator stated that they thought that it would be difficult for the couple to argue that they thought that the money was actually theirs (and not deposited by mistake).
I’d like to offer a third alternative as to what you could do with the cash: withdraw every penny and donate it to charity.
Or, even better, charities. Keep not a penny for yourself. Give the whole lot away to those who do good and need the cash to carry on doing good.
And then see the huge moral dilema faced by these faceless corporate whores.
Imagine if you gave £10 million to five charities: £2 million each.
The banks would face huge negative PR if they clawed it back. They’d be forced into a position where they would almost certainly have to give something substantial to the charities.
You’d probably still find yourself charged with theft, but you’d have huge public support so any sentence would probably be pretty lenient. You could offer the defence that you never actually benefitted from the money, and that the banks have a duty of care to look after money in their possession.
You could then sell the rights to your story and get a film made about it. So you would, eventually, make some money. And you’d have the satisfaction of making the banks look like idiots (without them doing it for themselves for a change).
Then you’ve got another big dilemma: who should play you? Brad Pitt or Gene Hackman?

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