Business

Tuesday 30 May 2017

Noonan should fire ahead with FF Bill

TALKING of discredited politicians, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael deserve credit for adopting a grown-up attitude to a private members bill from Fianna Fail finance spokesman Michael McGrath.

Deputy McGrath wants to allow the financial ombudsman to name banks and financial advisors who are guilty of mis-selling. So does the ombudsman. In a surprise move on Tuesday evening, Michael Noonan agreed.

At stake are the reputations of some of the country's slimiest financial advisors. Until now, the law has protected bank officials who con 80-year-olds by locking them into six-year bonds or even those who resort to faking forms to rob the elderly. Quite why the bank or the employee needs to be protected in cases like these has always been difficult to understand.

Mr Noonan told the Dail this week that the ombudsman has two reservations about naming institutions; complainants may be less inclined to bring a complaint if they might be named and institutions might take a more defensive line and appeal findings more to the courts.

The ombudsman wants the power to name and shame in certain cases and it appears that he will get it. He also wants safeguards to protect the identity of those making complaints and statutory privilege covering the naming of institutions.

These safeguards all appear reasonable which is why it was a little worrying to hear Mr Noonan tell the Dail that he will now consult with the financial services industry. There are often good reasons to consult with the financial services industry but this is not one of them. Alan Shatter may talk to the gardai before changing the law but he doesn't consult with criminal gangs and neither should Michael Noonan.

The ombudsman often deals with criminal behaviour inside the financial services sector and the authorities should keep those criminals at some distance rather than asking for feedback and advice. It is time Mr Noonan's department accepts that criminals are criminals regardless of the colour of their collars?

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