740.00112A European War, 1939/10635

The Ambassador in Argentina (Armour) to the Secretary of State

No. 4710

Sir: With reference to the Department’s telegram No. 418 of March 25, 11 p.m.,47 authorizing the Embassy to have conversations regarding war financial cooperation with certain local banks interested in obtaining credit facilities from the Export-Import Bank of Washington and referring also to the Embassy’s telegram No. 645 of April 10, 3 p.m.,47 I have the honor to report below conversations with officers of certain of the banks mentioned in the Department’s telegram No. 377 [337] of March 11, 12 noon.47

Banco de la Provincia

On April 7 and again on April 9, officers of the Embassy had conversations with Sr. Alberto Tintoré, head of the foreign department of the Banco de la Provincia, in the course of which reference was made to the conversation last December at the Central Bank with the general manager and head of the foreign-exchange department of the Banco de la Provincia during the visit in Buenos Aires of Mr. Ravndal48 and to the letter received from the bank several days thereafter (reported in the Embassy’s despatch No. 3825 of January 8, 194247). In the conversation on April 7, Sr. Tintoré said that he could say definitely that his institution had no relations with firms and individuals on the Proclaimed List outside of Argentina, but that as he was not familiar with the bank’s policy as applied to relations with such firms and individuals located within the country, he would be obliged to consult with other officers of the bank before giving an answer. On April 9, Sr. Tintoré said that after consulting with Dr. d’Oliveira, general manager of the bank, he could say that the policy of his institution was not to grant new credits to parties on the Proclaimed List and to liquidate by degrees such credits as were outstanding. He stated that this was consistent with sound banking practice inasmuch as listed firms, if they should have need for loans, would probably not be good credit risks. When questioned on the point, Sr. Tintoré said that even if a firm on the Proclaimed List were a good risk, and wished credit, it would be the policy of his bank not [Page 464]to grant it, although he admitted that there might be rare exceptions. In regard to transactions with Europe, he said that the Banco de la Provincia pursued a strict policy of scrutinizing the facts of every case before transferring a payment, and he referred in this connection to what he characterized as the strictly enforced control of the Central Bank through requiring a specific authorization before a payment to Europe could be made. Sr. Tintoré gave evidence of wishing to cooperate fully with the Embassy, including furnishing complete information on any individual cases. (In this regard, see the Embassy’s despatch No. 4715 of yesterday’s [today’s] date51 regarding a deposit made last January in the Banco de la Provincia by Mr. Frederick J. Gilfillan.) When Sr. Tintoré was told that the Embassy’s gratification in receiving his bank’s renewed assurances of cooperation would be increased in Washington if they could be confirmed in some form of written communication, he said that he would be glad to inquire of his superiors whether this could be done.

Ernesto Tornquist y Compañia

The Embassy had a conversation on April 7 with Sr. Carlos Alfredo Tornquist, formerly head of the bank and now a member of the Board of Directors, who was accompanied by another director and the head of the foreign-exchange department of the institution. These persons stated emphatically that it was the policy of the bank to desist from all transactions with firms on the Proclaimed List either in Argentina or abroad and said that the bank could be counted upon to cooperate in every way possible with pertinent war measures of the United States. Sr. Tornquist offered to confirm this in a letter to the Embassy. Although a report has been received from a discharged employee of the bank indicating that Sr. Tornquist has subsequently gone to Rio de Janeiro to negotiate an operation involving interests that are ostensibly Belgian but in reality German (a report which the Embassy is now investigating), all other evidence indicates that this institution is pro-democratic and friendly towards the United States.

Banco Polaco Polska kasa Opieki, S.A.

Dr. Enrique Gruber, President of the above-mentioned bank, informed the Embassy on April 7 that his institution was cooperating completely with our Government and that it had no relations whatsoever with firms or individuals on the Proclaimed List. He said that his bank did a considerable proportion of the Polish business in Argentina and that it could be relied upon to be completely anti-Nazi. When questioned in the matter, Dr. Gruber said that it was true that the bank was not on friendly terms with the Polish Legation but that this was due to its refusal about a year and a half ago to turn the bank [Page 465]over to a representative of the Polish Ministry of Finance who suddenly appeared in Buenos Aires seeking to take over the institution by payment of 900,000 pesos and whose mission the Polish Legation supported. The ownership of the bank, he said, had been placed in escrow during the remainder of the war with the result that the bank could not legally have been sold under these circumstances. Dr. Gruber, who stated that before coming to Buenos Aires to establish the Polish Bank here some ten years ago he had been head of two large banks in Warsaw, claimed that his institution was owned by Polish interests but was not controlled directly or indirectly by the Polish Government.

Banco Francés del Río de la Plata

Sr. Le Prevost, head of the foreign-exchange department of the above bank, called at the Embassy on April 9. He gave assurances that his institution was cooperating in every way with the war financial policy of our Government and that it was granting no credit facilities to firms on the Proclaimed List.

Shaw, Strupp and Company

Mr. Julius Strupp, a partner of the above company (and a naturalized American citizen) called at the Embassy yesterday and gave assurances, as he had done before, that his bank was cooperating fully with our Government. When told that a report had been received that the books of his company for 1941 had not been audited (see Embassy’s despatch No. 4217 of February 24, 194252), Mr. Strupp stated that the British auditors, Deloitte, Plender, Griffiths and Company, were working on the books now and would certify them shortly. He then volunteered the information that Price, Waterhouse had declined to certify the bank’s books for the reason that the auditor assigned to the work did not understand banking practices, more especially purchase-and-sale entries relating to the borrowing of bonds for three months at a commission for purposes of tenders by the bank’s clients. Although this explanation might well be questioned, it would seem that if Deloitte, Plender, Griffiths and Company are disposed to certify the books, any previous irregularities have now been corrected.

Some time ago Shaw, Strupp and Company gave assurances in writing to the British Embassy concerning cooperation with war measures, and insofar as is known there has been no evidence that those assurances have been violated.

Banco Popular Argentino

Two officers of the Embassy called upon Sr. Quesada, the general manager of this bank, on April 8. Sr. Quesada explained that his [Page 466]bank had no relations with firms and individuals on the Proclaimed List established outside of Argentina, but he indicated that his bank saw no reason why it should desist from such relations within the country.

There is some doubt as to the pro-democratic sympathies of this bank. At least one of its directors is understood to be avowedly pro-Nazi, and Dr. Carlos A. Pueyrredón, the Mayor of Buenos Aires, who is a conservative and whose belief in the principles of continental solidarity may be questioned, is said to have considerable interests in the bank.

All of the banks with whom these conversations were held stated that they continued to have an interest in the financial facilities contemplated, although in general they questioned whether they would be able to avail themselves of such facilities under existing trade conditions.

As the Banco Société Génerale, the Banco de Italia y Río de la Plata, and the Banco Holandés Unido have given secret undertakings to the British Embassy and have, it is reported, been cooperating closely with that mission, no conversations were deemed necessary at this time.

In the Embassy’s telegram No. 645 of April 10, 3 p.m., there were recommended as suitable agencies for purposes of the credit plan of the Export-Import Bank of Washington all of the banks mentioned in the Department’s telegram No. 337 of March 11, 12 noon, except Argentaría, which can probably best be investigated in the United States in relation to J. Henry Schroeder Banking Corporation, which controls it; The Banco Popular Argentino, which, it is felt, has thus far failed to demonstrate a sufficiently cooperative attitude, as indicated above; and the Banco Español del Río de la Plata. Although the last-named institution is reported to be owned principally within Argentina (at one time it was owned by interests in Spain), it is closely allied with Spanish interests, has subsidiaries in Spain, and is actively engaged in financing Argentine exports to that country, a portion of which, according to recent reports reaching the Embassy, are likely to be proceeding ultimately to Germany or occupied territories. There is reason to believe, therefore, that the institution may be regarded by the Axis countries as a “friendly bank.” If further investigations should indicate this to be not the case, the Department will be promptly informed in the premises.

Respectfully yours,

Norman Armour
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  4. On November 19, 1941, Christian M. Ravndal was sent by the Department to the American Missions in South America to discuss export controls, the freezing of foreign funds, and the Proclaimed List.
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