‘Stag­ger­ing’ ad­mis­sion: Bank ac­cepts 10,300 caught in tracker scan­dal

Irish Daily Mail - - Front Page - By Jen­nifer Bray Deputy Po­lit­i­cal Ed­i­tor

BANK of Ire­land has been forced to ad­mit it wrongly took money from an­other 6,000 cus­tomers dur­ing the tracker scan­dal, a de­vel­op­ment de­scribed last night as ‘noth­ing short of stag­ger­ing’.

Only two weeks ago the lender in­sisted it had iden­ti­fied only 4,300 cus­tomers who had been over­charged, and said it would ‘con­tinue to re­view’ the is­sue.

Now it turns out the num­ber is ac­tu­ally an as­ton­ish­ing 10,300.

The eight-year-old tracker scan­dal was brought into sharp fo­cus in re­cent weeks when vic­tims told har­row­ing sto­ries about how banks hounded them for funds; some even lost their homes.

It will now cost Bank of Ire­land up to €200mil­lion to com­pen­sate its vic­tims,

a mas­sive in­crease on the €25mil­lion it orig­i­nally fore­cast.

Last night the Cen­tral Bank was claim­ing credit for Bank of Ire­land’s ad­mis­sion, in­sist­ing it fol­lowed a ‘ro­bust chal­lenge’ from the reg­u­la­tor.

Bank of Ire­land’s new group chief ex­ec­u­tive Francesca McDon­agh also ap­peared to take credit for the change of stance, with a state­ment say­ing she had made the tracker is­sue ‘a top pri­or­ity’ since tak­ing over.

Yes­ter­day, she apol­o­gised ‘un­re­servedly’ for the anx­i­ety and suf­fer­ing caused to those af­fected, but as re­cently as Oc­to­ber 21 she de­clined to apol­o­gise fol­low­ing queries from the Ir­ish Daily Mail.

Po­lit­i­cally, the news has drawn scorn across the spec­trum.

Fianna Fáil fi­nance spokesman Michael McGrath said the home­own­ers who lost out are be­ing of­fered ‘measly’ com­pen­sa­tion, for which the bank has no dead­line. He said: ‘The num­bers keep chang­ing, the banks are drag­ging their feet and there is no sense that they are close to get­ting to the bot­tom of the prob­lem.’

He said the rev­e­la­tion ‘is noth­ing short of stag­ger­ing and com­pletely dis­cred­its the bank’s ap­proach to the is­sue so far’, adding: ‘Just two weeks ago, fol­low­ing his meet­ings with the main banks, the Min­is­ter for Fi­nance, Paschal Dono­hoe, is­sued an up­date stat­ing that Bank of Ire­land had iden­ti­fied 4,300 cus­tomers as be­ing im­pacted by the tracker scan­dal and that all th­ese would re­ceive re­dress and com­pen­sa­tion by the end of 2017.

‘To­day, we are told by the bank that it has iden­ti­fied a fur­ther 6,000 af­fected cus­tomers and no dead­line has been given as to when they will get their money back. To­day’s state­ment from Bank of Ire­land comes over two years on from the start of the Cen­tral Bank’s tracker probe.’

Sinn Féin fi­nance spokesman Pearse Do­herty said the news is ‘proof of the on­go­ing con­tempt the banks have for the process and for the vic­tims’.

Bank of Ire­land yes­ter­day said the 4,300 cus­tomers pre­vi­ously iden­ti­fied will be writ­ten to in the com­ing weeks and given ‘a range of op­tions’.

Those among the lat­est 6,000 who still have an ac­count in the bank will be re­turned to their cor­rect tracker rate ‘as soon as pos­si­ble’ and the bank said it aims to com­pen­sate them, start­ing be­fore the end of 2017. Among those be­ing re­turned to tracker rates are ap­prox­i­mately 1,800 of the lender’s own staff.

The bank said last night it wanted to use an ap­proach which ‘seeks to re­spect our le­gal and con­trac­tual com­mit­ments and also en­sure fair out­comes are achieved for our cus­tomers’. Ms McDon­agh ap­peared to take credit, with a bank state­ment that read: ‘Since tak­ing up the role of CEO at Bank of Ire­land in Oc­to­ber, mak­ing progress on the tracker is­sue has been a top pri­or­ity. We have since made sub­stan­tial progress in re­la­tion to the is­sue.’

She said: ‘Our pri­or­ity is to en­sure that all im­pacted cus­tomers are com­pen­sated as quickly as pos­si­ble.’

The Cen­tral Bank, re­spond­ing to the news, said it came about after a dis­pute over whether those home­own­ers should be in­cluded at all.

A spokesman said: ‘We note

‘De­ter­mined to pur­sue banks’

the an­nounce­ment to­day that, fol­low­ing ro­bust chal­lenge by the Cen­tral Bank, Bank of Ire­land will now in­clude dis­puted groups of cus­tomers in the Tracker Ex­am­i­na­tion for re­dress and com­pen­sa­tion. Th­ese are groups of cus­tomers that the Cen­tral Bank had iden­ti­fied as hav­ing been im­pacted but Bank of Ire­land had pre­vi­ously dis­puted.

‘The Cen­tral Bank is de­ter­mined to pur­sue banks to in­clude af­fected cus­tomers in the re­dress and com­pen­sa­tion scheme.’

It come after the Cen­tral Bank was ac­cused of hav­ing no teeth as it can­not set the level of re­dress and com­pen­sa­tion in most cases as th­ese pre­date 2013 laws.

Com­ment – Page 14 jen­nifer.bray@dai­ly­

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