AIB's chief executive Bernard Byrne will appear before the Oireachtas Finance Committee later today, the first of the banks' CEOs set to address politicians on the tracker mortgage scandal. But after months of ever-changing figures and new revelations, many would be forgiven for losing track of the scandal itself.
Padraic Kissane, a financial advisor who has campaigned on the issue, said the lenders themselves have largely gotten to grips with the scale of the problem and now the focus is on cleaning up the mess that is left.
"There are still arguable cases ongoing but we are starting to see, thankfully, the end of it," he said. He said that over 33,000 accounts were affected and now there are some issues with particular banks where they would determine that they do not believe some cases are impacted.
Mr Kissane said that there were always going to be a small number of cases that got missed, simply due to the volumes involved. But he sees a broader issue with the way in which some lenders are treating cases. For example, he says he takes issue with EBS's refusal to return some customers to the original tracker rate to which they were entitled. He also highlighted issues at Ulster Bank / First Active and said more information is needed from KBC Bank Ireland.
As a result, Mr Kissane sees value in the banks' bosses being brought before the Oireachtas Committee to answer questions as there is still a lot of information that needs to be divulged. He said there is also a need to see evidence of a cultural shift within the banks, to ensure that the problems that led to this situation cannot be repeated. "I presume what's being looked for now, is to see if there's any development of the culture change that's going to be required within the banks," he said.
Mr Kissane said he has had some joy in working with the banks in fixing these issues and said that while compensation may still not be agreed in certain cases, the fact that banks are hearing directly from those affected is a step in the right direction. "That should assist in bringing about a culture change that should be prevalent in a lot of banks, I would assume that's what's going to be looked at today and with the other CEOs as they appear," he said.
The affect of the tracker scandal sits on a wide spectrum, too, as some came out relatively unscathed while others saw their lives turned upside down. Mr Kissane said that he has seen cases where major family decisions - such as having a child - were impacted by the banks' behaviour, while there are also many cases where people lost their homes entirely due to the higher-than-justified rate. But he does see light at the end of the tunnel and feels that, for many, the closure they desire is coming.
"Some of the severest cases will probably have to go to court," he said."But AIB, Bank of Ireland and Ulster Bank have indicated a willingness to set up, essentially, a triage process within the appeals process and that would see the banks dealing directly on some of the solvable matters. Some of the other issues just have to be heard by the independent appeals body and they will make an adjudication on what's appropriate in terms of money. Frankly the words are there but all that's at the disposal of the banks to help draw a line under the matter for customers is their money, and they'll have to come forth on that front," he added.
MORNING BRIEFS - Ulster Bank Ireland is to pay a dividend of €1.5 billion to its parent company at the end of this month. It marks the second dividend from the business, which covers the brand's Republic of Ireland operations, following a €1.5 billion payment in November 2016. Ulster Bank said it would remain in a strong capital position following payment of the dividend, well above regulatory capital minimums.
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