Is meaningful regulation of Irish banks impossible?

 

Sir, – Tracker rates charged by the banks did not change all by themselves. There had to be instructions, presumably issued by senior management, to IT departments to have interest-rate changes implemented.

The banks tell us that correcting these tracker overcharges is a long and complex task (which, of course, allows them to sit on the overcharges indefinitely). It is no surprise that Irish banks find complex tasks beyond them. They have been demonstrating their incompetence for years.But it didn’t hinder them from making the rate-change increases when it suited them.

All these banks have well-remunerated boards of directors (or governors). What actions have they taken to deal with this heady mixture of incompetence and chicanery? None that I can see. And are they facing consequences? Of course not.

The events of the past 10 years or so, in particular, demonstrate the Central Bank’s total and continued ineffectiveness in regulating Irish banks.

Successive ministers for finance also seem to have been quite happy with this Central Bank docility in the face of an ongoing series of financial irregularities by Irish banks.

According to its glossy, overblown annual report, being “trusted by the public” is a key part of the Central Bank’s “vision”. All I can say to it on that score is, dream on. It would be a shame to wake it up. – Yours, etc,

BILL POWER,

Tramore,

Co Waterford.

Sir, – To those in the banks who might be worried or feel they might be held accountable and lose their jobs and pension entitlements because they ruined people’s lives, there really is no need for panic.

The Central Bank of Ireland has proven time and time again its utter ineptitude at any meaningful regulation of our banks, while investigation and prosecution of any white-collar crime in this country – particularly that involving banks – is incompetent to the point of farce

Have no fear of the machinations and soundbites of the last few days, dear bankers, all will be well. – Yours, etc,

GERARD REYNOLDS,

Churchtown, Dublin 14.

Sir, – It seems strange to recall that there was a time, fadó, fadó, when to be a banker was to be held in high esteem in the community – the higher the position, the greater the esteem.

Weren’t those the daft, innocent days?

It now transpires that, like so many of the institutions once regarded with admiration in this country, what we had, in fact, was not an honourable body of (almost exclusively) men but yet another petri dish in which a “culture” of corruption, self-enrichment and self-admiration, totally toxic to the citizens of this republic, has been allowed to flourish ignored, even encouraged, by so-called regulatory authorities and so-called governments.

Are we living in a republic owned and ruled entirely by charlatans and cowards? – Yours, etc,

LIAM STENSON,

Knocknacarra,

Galway.

Sir, – Banking professionals are required both by the Central Bank and by codes of practice of the various professional bodies they are members of to act ethically in all their professional activities.

It is clear that those senior bankers who are deciding on their bank’s response to customers unfairly moved off tracker mortgages have not been acting ethically and continue not to do so.

Surely the time has long passed for these individuals to be expelled by their professional bodies for this fundamental breach of their codes?

Perhaps this will focus minds and prompt those concerned to do “the decent thing” by their customers.

Failure by these professional bodies to expel the culprits, in my view, would render their codes meaningless. – Yours, etc,

MARK JOHNSTON,

Termonfeckin,

Co Louth.

Sir, – There has been rightly much talk and public opprobrium heaped on the banks and building societies for their treatment of customers in the tracker-mortgage scandal.

However, as a society we should recognise that the names of these institutions are merely brands; it is in most cases Irish people, executives of these institutions, who are imposing this immoral and grotesque destruction on their fellow citizens before they themselves return to their own homes and families every evening.

Those in their circles have a moral imperative to challenge these executives on their actions and motives.

These executives should be forewarned that history has determined that “I was just following orders” is no longer an excuse. – Yours, etc,

COLM SMYTH,

Dublin 18.

Sir, – I usually associate the word surreal with works of art or novels. Listening to the performance of the head of the Central Bank at the Oireachtas finance committee this week was definitely a surreal experience.

If I steal money and am caught, I will be arrested, charged, tried and, if found guilty, given an appropriate sentence.

Not so for bankers. They can, in the words of the chairman of the Oireachtas committee, steal money, and when they are found out, they simply refuse to refund it. There is apparently no question of prosecution. It is difficult not to believe there is one law for the rich and one for the poor. – Yours, etc,

SHAUN R McCANN,

Dublin 8.

Sir, – My catechism told me that taking what did not belong to you was stealing , Apparently it is now only sharp practice . – Yours, etc,

DAVID MURNANE,

Dunshaughlin, Co Meath.

Sir, – Many French historians date the beginning of the end of feudalism from an incident in the 1400s when the French king intervened in a court case to ensure that a nobleman was found guilty and hanged for assaulting a peasant girl. The great and the good were outraged, this was clearly political correctness gone mad (or some such similar sentiment).

While they conceded that a nobleman was theoretically forbidden by law from committing crimes against members of the lower orders just like anyone else, the law should continue to be flexible in these matters, realistically taking account of the different worth to society of the victim and the accused.

If these French historians are correct in their definition of what was essential to feudalism, it looks like we in Ireland have already drifted back to feudalism in our own time.

Commentators and centrist politicians all gravely agree that something should be done about the tracker-mortgage scandal, but there is a general acceptance that no one will be prosecuted.

It is as if they accept that while theoretically a member of the elite could be guilty of a crime against one of the great unwashed, the law should be implemented in a flexible and realistic manner in these cases.

Our future then is essentially feudalist, just without the fun titles and pageantry. Financial feudalism, if you like. – Yours, etc,

TIM O’HALLORAN,

Dublin 11.