Ulster Bank behaviour ‘shocking’, claims Mattie McGrath
TD tells House of Commons committee bank is ‘playing games’ with regulators over debtors
“The horror stories disclosed at the meeting were shocking and it became clear that RBS’s problems in Ireland effect north and south,” Mattie McGrath told the committee’s chairman, Conservative MP Laurence Robertson. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times
Ulster Bank’s treatment of business debtors in the Republic has been “shocking” and the bank is “playing games” with regulators, a House of Commons committee has been told by Independent TD Mattie McGrath.
Ulster Bank’s parent company, Royal Bank of Scotland, is facing allegations in Britain levelled by Lawrence Tomlinson, an expert hired by British business secretary Vince Cable, that it deliberately bankrupted debtors in a bid to get its hands on valuable assets.
In a letter to the Commons Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Mr McGrath said he attended a meeting in Belfast last week also attended by Mr Tomlinson, where half of those who turned up were customers of Ulster Bank in the Republic.
“The horror stories disclosed at the meeting were shocking and it became clear that RBS’s problems in Ireland effect north and south,” Mr McGrath told the committee’s chairman, Conservative MP Laurence Robertson.
“It is quite clear that this bank has been playing games across borders using different companies registered in the different jurisdictions and that regulators in London and Dublin have not been able to regulate,” Mr McGrath declared.
However, the chief executive of Ulster Bank, Jim Brown, who appeared before MPs yesterday, said that Ulster Bank takes the allegations made by Mr Tomlinson, a Yorkshire-based businessman, “very seriously”.
“I have seen no evidence of any systematic issues of the nature as Mr Tomlinson has talked about and no cases have been presented to us to actually review to see if there were any issues,” he said.
Mr Tomlinson had never been in touch with Ulster Bank before he made his allegations in a report to the business secretary, though “subsequently we found out that one of the people in his office had sent an email to one of our people”, said Mr Brown.
Ulster Bank will publish its strategy to deal with its bad debts by the middle of March, he said. A team was appointed “only in the last week or two”, though the strategy will likely focus on sales or debt work-outs.
Chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne has told RBS that it must deal with its bad debt problem by 2016, though Mr Brown assured Independent MP Sylvia Hermon that the NI property market “is not going to be flooded”.