Monday 18 November 2019

Banking on the unacceptable

THERE are only two certainties in life -- death and taxes. But a third can now be added, and that is the limitless capacity of our banks to shock. These institutions have been singularly responsible for bringing the country to its knees, and the nation has put its future in hock to secure their survival.

Even so, yesterday we learned that Bank of Ireland is to pay €2m to the exchequer for providing "misleading" information on bonuses paid to staff.

An investigation ordered by the Department of Finance shows the bank paid staff bonuses totalling nearly €66.4m from September 2008 to the end of last year.

It should also be borne in mind that other financial institutions covered by the bank guarantee scheme have paid out a total of almost €46m in bonuses between 2008 and 2010.

Bank of Ireland has been fined because it had previously implied that no bonuses had been paid to senior management since the bank guarantee in 2008.

Because of the false information, outgoing Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan gave a misleading response to a Dail question.

Showing remarkable restraint, Mr Lenihan has said that he was "dissatisfied" with the approach of the bank.

Bank of Ireland has previously admitted providing incorrect information but said it did not mean to mislead the department.

Last night, Labour's Joan Burton said that "the failure of Bank of Ireland' to come clean on bonuses is just one further act of deceit."

She also called for BoI's board to be restructured to ensure replacement of directors. That would seem like the very least we might expect.

More than 150 years ago, Thomas Jefferson wrote: "I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies."

Not much has changed.

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