Monday 20 August 2018

Arrest bankers over tracker scam, says Dáil probe chief

Finance Committee chairman John McGuinness
Finance Committee chairman John McGuinness
Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

Arrests of bankers are needed to stop the abuse of customers seen in the tracker scam, the chairman of the Oireachtas Finance Committee said.

His comments came as it emerged Ulster Bank will have to spend millions more euro refunding customers for taking their trackers, as it faces having to restore thousands more to the low-mortgage rates.

The bank could have to put up to 3,000 more people back on trackers. This could see its total number of tracker cases jumping to 6,500.

Most of those affected took out mortgages with First Active, which was subsequently taken over by Ulster Bank, according to tracker restoration specialist Padraic Kissane.

Chairman of the Oireachtas Finance Committee John McGuinness called for the jailing of errant bankers.

The committee has been holding revelatory hearings into the tracker scandal.

Mr McGuinness said the mistreatment of tracker mortgage customers will continue until a banker is arrested and faces consequences.

He told 'Newstalk' that it was "absolutely a crime" that homeowners were wrongly taken off tracker mortgages.

This week the Central Bank said 33,700 cases of borrowers being wrongly denied low-cost tracker rates or put on the incorrect margin have been acknowledged by banks.

Lenders have admitted that at least 37 borrowers lost their homes as a result of the controversy, while 79 buy-to-let properties were taken.

Mr McGuinness said that "until the day that a garda arrests a banker, this carry-on from the banks will continue ruining lives".

"From 2009, when the first voices were being raised, to 2014 in the Dáil, when we were told by the banks that there was nothing to see here, move along, the banks knew there was something wrong, something rotten, but they continued to cover it up."

He claimed that the Central Bank had for too long protected the banks, rather than customers.

The Fianna Fáil TD's comments came as it was revealed that criminal lawyers have been engaged by the Central Bank in a bid to see if criminal cases can be taken against the bank executives behind the tracker scam.

Mr Kissane said Ulster Bank has not restored to the correct rate any tracker customers who drew down a mortgage through First Active.

He said people were sent "tracker removal letters" when they opted to fix for a period, but it was not made clear that they were permanently signing off a tracker rate. Ulster Bank has admitted it may uncover more tracker-denial cases.

Mr Kissane said EBS, which is now part of AIB, has yet to deal with its tracker cases.

He estimates that the total number of cases across all banks will hit 40,000 in the new year, at a total cost to the banks of €1bn. So far, €297m in redress and compensation has been paid.

Irish Independent

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