independent

Tuesday 21 August 2018

Bankers think they deserve bonuses. Not before they fix the tracker scandal

Opinion

Our View

You'd have to hand it to Ireland's top bankers. When it comes to brass necks they'd put the Colossus of Rhodes to shame.

Barely a decade after their greed and incompetence drove Ireland off a financial cliff - and cost our country its economic sovereignty - some of our esteemed senior bankers are whining into their Moët and Chandon because they are no longer getting the multi million Euro bonuses they had become accustomed to during the heady days of the boom.

This has, quite rightly, infuriated many people who feel that swingeing pay cuts rather than eye-watering bonuses should be the order of the day.

At least until Ireland's still dysfunctional banking system can get its house into something better other than rag order.

To gain an insight into just how disconnected some of Ireland's top bankers appear from the day to day reality of their customers one need only look at AIB's recent AGM in Dublin.

At the meeting senior management at the bank - of which 71 per cent is owned by the State on foot of a €20.8 billion bank rescue - proposed that bonuses, worth up to 100 per cent of their salaries, should be reintroduced for some of its most senior executives.

Unfortunately for the bankers, and fortunately for the taxpayer, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe - no doubt sensing a potential political catastrophe - shot down the astonishing proposal in no uncertain terms.

What made the AIB bonus proposal even more incredible was the fact that the same day the Central Bank issued a new report that revealed a further 3,400 loans had been identified as being caught up in the tracker mortgage scandal. Around 1,800 of those loans belonged to AIB customers.

AIB is taking steps to resolve the issue - after some significant delays - and roughly 96 per cent of the 5,800 of the customers it 'wrongly charged' have been paid redress and compensation.

Given that the tracker scandal is still rumbling on - along with the fallout from various banks' sale of thousands of homes to Vulture funds - it is nothing short of breathtaking that senior bankers could think the payment of bonuses would even be contemplated.

They argue - unconvincingly it would appear given Minister Donohoe's unequivocal response - that the lack of bonuses is stopping them from attracting top talent.

Is that the same calibre of 'top talent' that helped oversee the almost total collapse of the Irish economy with decisions that helped plunge thousands of families into penury and homelessness?

In the last few years, Ireland has begun to recover from the lost decade that resulted from our banks' profligacy.

That recovery, however, has not spread evenly and across the country countless people, families and businesses are still struggling to survive.

Most of Ireland's top bankers have emerged largely unscathed from the crash they oversaw. They should not mistake that for the public forgiving or forgetting what they did.

Enniscorthy Guardian

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