Saturday 21 September 2019

Only enforcement will change banks' culture

Central Bank Governor Philip Lane
Central Bank Governor Philip Lane


In most traumas, first there is the blow and then the bruise. Almost 10 years since our banks broke the country, the blows rain down.

Yesterday, we learned that AIB is set to face sanctions from the Central Bank for overcharging thousands of customers on tracker mortgages.

This bombshell comes only weeks after its chief Bernard Byrne promised to rebuild trust in the State-owned bank.

At the end of last month, the five core banks all apologised unreservedly to the affected customers in a series of statements.

That had to mean something ... or did it?

For last week we learned that Bank of Ireland had somehow stumbled upon 6,000 more tracker cases that urgently need sorting.

For too long the banks have got away with it. How can their boards, their chief executives, the Central Bank, and our Government stand over this?

At what point can the people of this country expect to get justice?

When will the people who have lost their homes and have had their lives ruined get back what was so wrongly taken?

Sources in AIB yesterday claimed they were "shocked" by the watchdog's move.

Not quite so shattered as those courageous people who appeared before the Oireachtas committee to tell how their lives were torn apart by the banks.

The very people without whose testimony there appeared to be little or no political resolve to bring real pressure on our lending institutions.

After all the appalling revelations, Central Bank Governor Philip Lane still had to reveal yesterday that the extent of the tracker scandal is set to widen.

Earlier this year Michael Noonan said that banks should be punished for their "disgraceful" treatment of tracker mortgage customers. But nothing happened. Then Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe criticised the "disgraceful" behaviour of the banks and the "hurt" caused to borrowers - but decided against any immediate sanctions against lenders.

It's almost a decade since Matt Taibbi unforgettably described Goldman Sachs, the world's most powerful investment bank, as a "great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money". Many wondered that if the banks had a sense of, or could imagine, the sufferings they were responsible for, they would surely make immediate restitution. We have had our fill of forlorn hopes, what we need now is actual enforcement.


SF move gives the major parties food for thought

IN the same week that party leaderpresident Gerry Adams marks his 34th year as leader, Sinn Féin is looking at the prospect of entering into a coalition after the next election. If its commitment to maintaining power in the North is anything to go by, all one can say is “good luck with that”.

It is understood it will make what would mark an historic step on entering government in the south in the coming days by being open to coalition. This raises interesting issues for the established parties. It is nigh-on impossible to imagine that Fine Gael could find common ground with Sinn Féin, but in the event of it being the only partner available, will “no” really mean “no” for Fianna Fáil? When the election band strikes up, strange things happen. As Nietzsche put it: “And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.”

Irish Independent

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