Tuesday 26 September 2017

Homeowners vent anger at PTSB's 'moral bankruptcy'

Sarah Hogan at the bank's AGM in Dublin.
Sarah Hogan at the bank's AGM in Dublin.
Karen O'Donoghue.
Conor McNally.
Laura Noonan

Laura Noonan

ANGER, frustration and utter despair. Those were the feelings amongst outraged Permanent TSB (PTSB) mortgage holders who gave the bank's bosses a roasting at the annual general meeting yesterday.

Describing the bank as "morally bankrupt", they lambasted management for their "extortionate" interest rates and described the hardship inflicted on their families as a result of the high charges.

The first 20 minutes of the AGM were dominated by tale after tale from put-upon mortgage holders, who described themselves as "prisoners" of the bank and urged fellow customers to pull their savings out of the "morally bankrupt" institution.

Chairman Alan Cook said he'd invited them to air their grievances at the start of the meeting, after learning some homeowners had been buying shares in the bank "just so they could come along and protest".

"I knew we'd take a bit of a beating," he told reporters after the meeting.

"If we're going to be a customer-led bank, this demonstrates that we're interested in what customers are saying."

State-owned Permanent TSB was charging a 'standard variable rate' of 5.19pc to about 75,000 customers until very recently, when it cut the rate to 4.69pc. Some mortgage holders at AIB, which is also state-owned, pay 3pc; while some at Bank of Ireland pay 3.84pc.

"Can you explain to us where you expect us to get this money?" asked Conor McNally, who said he had fallen €6,500 behind on his mortgage.

"The Government has already milked us for additional tax, the income of most people in the population has been butchered.

"I have a family and a greatly reduced income and a greatly increased mortgage thanks to your extortionate rates."

Reckless

Mr McNally went on to proclaim he was "committed to telling every person" he knew to pull their money out of Permanent TSB and that he would, along with thousands like him, "drop you like a hot coal if we could".

"I'm so tired of paying for other people's reckless decisions," he said, drawing a cheer as he slammed the "disastrous foresight and risk management" that triggered massive losses at the bank and prompted the rise in interest rates.

Fellow mortgage holder Karen O'Donohue told the meeting she was encouraging "all customers to close their accounts with the bank" and said the way they had treated homeowners meant it was "too late for an apology".

Ms O'Donohue and her husband bought their home in 2005, when they were paying interest of about 3pc.

"We're lucky because we have steady jobs so we're not in arrears," she told the Irish Independent last night. "But we're paying about €400 a month more in interest than we would with another lender.

"We have a small child and another one on the way, that money would make a big difference," she added.

Ms O'Donohue and her husband can't move their mortgage of "about €300,000" because they're in negative equity and "no other bank would have us".

Mr Cook said hearing the stories of homeowners had "stiffened his resolve" to make Permanent TSB's mortgages competitive.

But despite persistent shareholder questioning, he could not say when the next step might be taken, but said the bank's restructuring plan would go to the EU in June.

"I'd be hopeful, but maybe I'm being naive," said Ms O'Donohue.

Irish Independent

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