Banks’ pious apologies over tracker scandal are nauseating
The banks have approached the review with a shameful absence of goodwill
Philip Lane: “Many lenders publicly state that they put customers first. The evidence of the examination that we have seen suggests otherwise.” Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
To say the banks have been dragged kicking and screaming to the full reality of the tracker mortgage scandal is, sadly, an understatement. They have been hauled to account under the full weight of legal advice that was based specifically on minimising any exposure to redress, without even a passing glance to the customers they had cheated outed of thousands of euro – and in some cases, even their homes.
The saddest statistic in the Central Bank update released on Wednesday was that number of people who had lost their homes. Prior to this, as many as 23 people were understood to have lost their homes. Now, the banks say the figure could be 37 – and that figure needs to be verified by the Central Bank. Given the trust one would have in a bank’s statement at this stage, it could yet be many more.
The pious pro forma apologies from banks that had it within their power to comprehensively address the situation years ago are nauseating. Too late now to express any contrition to their customers. Their determination to plug the holes in their finances caused by their own cavalier disregard of risk in the heyday of the Celtic Tiger left no room for consideration of the plight of customers.
The lack of goodwill with which the banks have, even this belatedly, approached this Central Bank-ordered review of tracker mortgages is evident in the tone of the Central Bank’s release yesterday. Not an institution known for hyperbole, the headline reads: “Lenders pushed to include 13,600 more tracker cases.” As you listen to the apologies, remember that too. Pushed.
Governor Philip Lane puts it straight: “Many lenders publicly state that they put customers first,” he says. “The evidence of the examination that we have seen suggests otherwise.”
The regulator’s director general of financial conduct, Derville Rowland, said many of the banks “put up barriers by relying on narrow interpretations of contracts”.
“We relentlessly pursued them in order to force them into doing the right thing by their customers.” It’s shameful, even at this remove from the financial crisis.
But even at this remove, people are still suffering. Lane again: “The Central Bank recognises the devastating effects that lenders’ failures have had on families and individuals. That is why we’re using all our powers to force the banks into line and ensure all affected customers are included for redress and compensation.”
What a pity the banks did not recognise that taking care of their customers was their job.