Sunday 26 January 2020

'I am not an equal citizen of this country'

Maurice Hudson
Maurice Hudson

Jerome Reilly

When Anglo Irish Bank went wallop, senior bondholders like billionaire Bill Gates had their money protected by the Irish State. And so did the depositors who benefited from the bank guarantee scheme. Their money was shifted over to AIB when Anglo was merged with Irish Nationwide to create IBRC.

When Anglo Irish Bank went wallop, senior bondholders like billionaire Bill Gates had their money protected by the Irish State. And so did the depositors who benefited from the bank guarantee scheme. Their money was shifted over to AIB when Anglo was merged with Irish Nationwide to create IBRC.

But Dublin pensioner Maurice Hudson wasn't so lucky. He faces losing all his life savings because what he thought was a pension plan is deemed to be an investment product.

He stands to lose some €450,000 as an unsecured bond holder.

After a long and eventful working life, Maurice and his wife face a retirement with their life savings gone.

Maurice was sales manager with Wavin, the pipe people, when he was made redundant during the last crash in 1988. He took his lump sum and continued his career in sales and eventually started his own firm in the fire protection industry called Firereins, based in Co Wicklow.

Of course, he was responsible for looking after his own pension and during the turmoil in the markets in 2007, he kept a close eye on the value of his pension.

"Every time I looked at my statement, I could see I had lost another €20,000 to €30,000. I said to my broker 'surely there is something I can do to protect my pension?'

"He told me that we would put it in a product where at least the capital was protected even though there wouldn't be that much of a percentage return on the investment. So, on his advice, we shifted it over to Anglo," Maurice recalls.

"I didn't know anything about bonds or anything like that, but what happened was that my savings of €606,000, as well as €66,000 from an investment with Aviva which had matured, was all put into this Anglo bank product called 'Wealth Options'.

On his retirement, Maurice managed to liberate 25 per cent of his savings, but that still left some €450,000 in the Wealth Options pot.

The Government treated it as a pension and he paid the pension levy when it was introduced in 2011. Then came the bombshell. The bank contacted him and told him him he could lose everything.

"They came to me in February and said I could lose everything because of the closure of the bank.

"I said, 'But that's a pension. It's protected.' And they said, 'Well, the minister is not moving your funds to AIB. Everyone else's money is being moved away but yours is not. For some reason your money was termed an Anglo bond and wasn't moved.'

"I said, 'But it's not an Anglo bond. They have been hitting it with the 0.6 per cent pension levy.'

"Then it became clear. The Government were treating my money as a pension at one level but as an Anglo bond at another level," Maurice says. His case has been taken up by Independent deputy Stephen Donnelly, who raised the issue in the Dail with Finance Minister Michael Noonan.

Mr Noonan replied that he was not in a position to advise on the specifics of any accounts with IBRC.

"I have been informed that there are a number of customer accounts that may not be entitled to full compensation under the Deposit Guarantee Scheme (DGS), or the Eligible Liabilities Guarantee scheme (ELG), due to the nature of the products or deposit options in which those account holders invested. At the time that such products were offered, there was no additional guarantee provided by the State in respect of those products. It was always the case that the ELG scheme covered only those liabilities which were entered into during the issuance window."

Maurice Hudson is angry.

"I would love someone from Government to come down here and explain to me why Michael Noonan decided that I am not an equal citizen in this country. I want them to tell me why everyone else's money was looked after, the billionaires and the senior bond holders, but mine was not," he says.

"I am told that there were only 36 people in this Wealth Options product, but 34 of them are getting their money back because because they had less than €100,000 in it and that's guaranteed. There is just me and another individual who will lose out," he added.

Irish Independent

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