A document from AIB containing a confidential non-disclosure clause that must be signed by distressed buy-to-let investors who want to do a deal with the bank was described as a cynical gagging attempt by Sinn Fein yesterday.
Party finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty said the document reveals the true extent of the bank's attempts to keep hidden from the public how it deals with mortgage distress at a time when people need transparency and action on the issues across all mortgage deals.
The document is titled 'Proposed restructuring of our facilities with Allied Irish Banks, PLC'.
The document states: "In consideration of your willingness to enter into negotiations with us, in connection with a possible restructuring of our facilities we hereby irrevocably undertake and agree as follows:
"Not to disclose to any third party the fact that negotiations are taking place between the bank and ourselves and in the event that an agreement is reached between the bank and ourselves to restructure our facilities, not to disclose to, or use for the benefit of, any third party the fact that such agreement may have been made nor to make known any details or information in any form (whether written, oral, visual or in any electronic form) relating thereto."
The letter further states: "To ensure that disclosure of any information in respect of any and all negotiations taking place between the bank and ourselves or any prospective agreement between the bank and ourselves to restructure our facilities is restricted to agents, employees (if any) and partners and/or directors (if any) of our business having the need to know the same and that each such agent, employee, partner and/or director is bound by confidentiality obligations no less onerous than those contained in this letter and which are evidenced in writing."
But Mr Doherty says the confidential document "finally lifts the lid on the bank's veil of secrecy on mortgage deals within the buy-to-let sector".
"We have been aware for some time that in some instances banks are restructuring mortgages, but that it is arbitrary and they try to keep the details hidden.
"There are 185,882 households in mortgage distress, or 23.5 per cent of all domestic mortgages, and many more just on the verge of going into distress. Of them, many of these are having sleepless nights. Many have not been dealt with effectively by the banks and constantly receive late payment notices and repeated phone calls.
"There are clearly deals being done, but in this instance, for what we have been informed is for the buy-to-let sector, AIB has produced a legal document to prevent any borrowers disclosing that they have even talked to their bank," he added.
Speaking on Prime Time last week, Finance Minister Michael Noonan revealed that AIB had taken on extra staff to deal with distressed mortgages.
"There have to be write-offs (but) they have to be done on a case-by-case basis," Mr Noonan said.