Friday 16 November 2018

Central Bank is still failing us, despite all we've gone through

BANKING ON IT: The unfinished building on the banks of the Liffey that was intended to be the new headquarters of Anglo Irish Bank. The Central Bank is to spend €140m kitting out the structure to transform it into its new headquarters
BANKING ON IT: The unfinished building on the banks of the Liffey that was intended to be the new headquarters of Anglo Irish Bank. The Central Bank is to spend €140m kitting out the structure to transform it into its new headquarters
Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

The Central Bank is still not fit for purpose, despite all we have gone through with our cowboy banks. The measly €100,000 fine imposed on moneylender Provident Personal Credit is just the latest evidence that all the promises of better consumer protection and intrusive regulation have rung hollow.

Provident, which is part of a €4bn-valued stock market company, was found to have flagrantly breached the rules.

It was rolling over loans for people already in debt to the moneylender, and failing to advance the full amount to borrowers who entered into a full agreement with it.

The Central Bank really could not have missed this one because whistleblowers inside Provident provided it with a detailed dossier of the breaches.

Provident played hard ball with the Central Bank, and in the end a paltry fine was agreed.

No compensation will be paid to the affected customers.

This is just one of many consumer protection failures lately.

Only a year ago, Central Bank found itself rushing into the High Court on a Sunday night to force the transfer of Newbridge Credit Union into Permanent TSB, despite having a special manager in place for ages to sort out the lender.

Such late-night court action does not inspire confidence and smacks of regulatory failure.

The Dame Street-based regulators failed to spot the imminent collapse of Bloxham Stockbrokers, despite getting regular regulatory returns from the firm.

And the regulators were slow to impose their will on Danske Bank, as the closure of the retail operation generated much confusion for consumers.

The fine of just €3.5m imposed last month on Ulster Bank for its IT collapse must have been greeted with relief by the bank bosses. The IT outage here was much longer than in the UK, but harsher penalties were imposed in Britain.

We are not aware that the Central Bank has lobbied for higher fines here.

And then we have had the embarrassing admission by Central Bank Governor Patrick Honohan that the figures it produces for the interest rates that apply for new mortgages are meaningless.

Variable rates here average 4.5pc, and not 3.47pc as the Central Bank puts out in its statistical release every month.

The regulators insist their figures are consistent with the European Central Bank, but admit they do not reflect what is happening in the market.

Then we have the revelations the Central Bank is to spend €140m kitting out a plush new office for its staff in a building that was intended to be the new headquarters of Anglo Irish Bank.

How appropriate that the Central Bank is moving to a site that is a reminder of its biggest regulatory failure.

Twitter: @CWeston_Indo

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