Brexit delaying bid to make bank officials more accountable - Donohoe

Minister proposes to seek approval for Central Bank (Amendment) Bill before summer

Efforts to make individual senior banking executives more accountable for their actions have been delayed because of the focus on Brexit business, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe has said.

Facing pressure over a call from the Central Bank in July last year for legislation to hold executives to account in the wake of the tracker mortgage scandal, Mr Donohoe said he had planned to seek Government approval to draft heads of the Bill, the initial overview, by the end of March.

He said “all my officials involved in this area have also been involved in all of the issues in the Brexit Omnibus Bill”.

However, he proposed to seek Government approval for the Central Bank (Amendment) Bill “well in advance of the summer” and to debate the legislation after the summer recess.

Fianna Fáil finance spokesman Michael McGrath described the Minister’s response as “deeply disappointing”.

During Dáil finance questions, he told Mr Donohoe the reality is that “the Central Bank has asked for the powers to hold senior executives in our banking system accountable and you are talking about going to Government to seek approval to draft the heads of the Bill”.

Not interested

He said people were not interested in when the Minister sought Government approval, but “when will it actually be the law of the land that senior executives who are making critical decisions about the future of their consumers can be held to account?”

He said 40,000 tracker mortgage customers had their money taken from them, and many were still waiting to get that money back. “And we have 6,000 customers in AIB who are in my view still being wronged”.

Mr McGrath warned of the urgency to deal with the issue. “Otherwise it could end up in the High Court and be very embarrassing for the bank in which the State continues to hold a majority shareholding.”

Mr Donohoe insisted he was determined the Bill would be “implemented as soon as possible”.

He said it had to be prepared in a way that was fully in keeping with the Constitution and capable of withstanding legal challenges.

He hoped to publish the heads of the Bill well in advance of the summer recess. Then the legislation could be drafted and before the House after the summer.