Business Irish

Wednesday 17 September 2014

AIB admits writing off mortgage debt for struggling homeowners

Chief executive says only €50m has been set aside to deal with such losses

Published 21/06/2013 | 05:00

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AIB chief executive David Duffy and chairman David Hodgkinson listen to shareholder Niall Murphy calling for their resignation at the bank’s AGM yesterday in the Bankcentre, Ballsbridge, Dublin

Allied Irish Banks confirmed that it has written off mortgage debt owed by some struggling customers.

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The bank's chief executive officer David Duffy told shareholders at the bank's annual general meeting yesterday that the bank has engaged in "structural solutions up to and including debt write-off".

It is understood the so-called debt forgiveness relates to cases where customers volunteered to sell their homes at a loss.

Mr Duffy was responding to questioning from consumer advocate Brendan Burgess at the agm. But Mr Duffy said AIB has set aside just €50m to deal with such losses.

AIB's total lending just for owner occupier mortgages stood at more than €31bn at the end of last year.

Dividends

At yesterday's agm, majority State-owned AIB said it expects to make a profit in 2014 for the first time since the bank was bailed out by taxpayers at a cost of over €20bn.

The chairman of AIB told the sparsely attended meeting that the bank aims to return to a profit this year, excluding its losses on boom-era loans, and to make an outright profit next year.

Directors said they believe the bank will meet so-called Basel III capital requirements by 2019, by returning to profit and holding onto cash that might otherwise go into dividends.

Chairman David Hodgkinson said AIB has had to implement "unpopular, difficult and challenging changes as a bank".

More than 99pc of the bank's shares are held by the State, leaving a tiny rump of private sector shareholders.

The AIB board was re-elected by an overwhelming majority at the agm thanks to the State- held shares. But not before directors faced a bruising round of questions from the mainly older private shareholders.

Mr Hodgkinson was questioned on his role in massive money laundering facilitated by his previous employer, HSBC. He was named in a US government report into the issue last year that led to the bank being fined $2bn.

Mr Hodgkinson said he is precluded from discussing the issue under the terms of a settlement reached by HSBC and US authorities, even to the extent that he cannot defend his record at HSBC.

Last year, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said those on lavish AIB pensions should hand back a share after it emerged that taxpayers' money had been used to plug a hole in the group's pension pot.

Former chief executive Eugene Sheehy previously said that he has handed back a share of his pension. Yesterday Mr Hodgkinson said he had written to 30 former employees asking them to consider volunteering a reduction in income to reflect the cost of bailing out the bank, but said "confidentiality" rules mean he is unable to indicate even if any of those contacted had responded to the request.

Irish Independent

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