Imagine being told by your bank that you couldn't have something you thought, or even knew, you were entitled to.

Imagine that as a result you got into severe financial difficulty.

Imagine that because of that difficulty, you couldn’t provide for your family in the way you wanted to, that it caused severe emotional stress to you and those around you.

Imagine that as a consequence, you even lost your home.

For many of the 41,000 people caught up in the tracker controversy over the past 14 or so years, there is no need to imagine - because this was their reality.

They were either denied their entitlement to a tracker mortgage rate, or wrongly lost access to one, or were put on an incorrect tracker rate.

The result was that they were effectively overcharged each month, often significantly, and for some this went on for many years.

Rights weren’t considered or ignored, regulations breached and customers were not placed at the centre of matters, as they should have been under codes of conduct.

Over the guts of two decades, these actions by the main retail banks destroyed lives and left hundreds without a roof over their heads.

327 people lost their properties, 98 of which were family homes.

And all because of their lender's pursuit of profit, or perhaps more correctly, efforts to minimise loss.

It was a shameful chapter in Irish banking.

And while it has taken the Central Bank a very long time to bring it to conclusion, all seven mortgage lenders who were at fault have now been brought to book.

Bank of Ireland's €100m fine today brings to over €270m the value of the sanctions imposed on the lenders concerned for their failures and recklessness.

Collectively the banks have had to pay over €750m in redress and compensation to those that they have wronged.

Figures don’t tell the full story, though, about the cost to broken lives.

In many cases, no amount of money will ever compensate those who were caught up in what can only be described as a scandal.

The banks continue to insist lessons have been learned, that culture has changed and that there will be no repeat.

But AIB's embarrassing U-turn on plans to remove cash services from 70 branches during the summer and ongoing controversy around the treatment of customers trying to switch their accounts from departing Ulster and KBC banks to other banks suggests lessons may need to continue.

The Irish Banking Culture Board was set up as a direct result of the controversy, in an effort to change mindsets inside the banks and the perception of those looking in from outside.

It described today's Bank of Ireland fine as a milestone for the sector, customers and stakeholders, and said it must act as a book-end to the unacceptable behaviour and culture within banking.

The board also said issues identified by the Central Bank should not be forgotten, but rather should act as a source of ongoing motivation for the kind of lasting cultural and behavioural change it is trying to drive.

That presupposes though that this controversy is now at an end, which it isn’t.

There are still 1,075 tracker mortgage complaints before the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman (FSPO) - not all of which, it should be said, are likely to be legitimate.

But the FSPO has received 200 new tracker cases so far this year.

There are also an unknown number of cases outstanding before the courts.

Another unhealed sore is the absence of individual accountability over the issues.

So far, not one person has been sanctioned by the regulator over their involvement in the scandal.

The only development to date has been an announcement from the Central Bank that it plans to set up an inquiry into the role played by a former executive at Permanent TSB - a process that’s likely to be prove drawn out.

It is possible, probably even, that the actions of other individuals are being looked at right now by the regulator.

Plus, the limited individual accountability powers that the Central Bank has require it to conclude organisational level probes before looking at individuals.

Nevertheless, at this stage it is hard for bank customers and the public in general to fathom why nobody has been held to account, either by the regulator, or perhaps even by An Garda Siochána.

The new Senior Executive Accountability Regime is winging its way through the Oireachtas and once passed will give the regulator enhanced powers in this area.

But they won’t be retrospective, meaning they can’t be used to sanction the senior bankers who allowed or even encouraged the tracker scandal to happen on their watch.

So by any measure there is much road left to travel in this scandalous episode in Irish banking history.

And for the 41,000 tracker customers who were directly impacted by the misdeeds of the banks, it will be a long time, if ever, before it is forgotten.


Bank of Ireland fined €100.5m over tracker scandal