"That Dáil Éireann:
— mortgage rates charged by banks in Ireland, in particular variable rates, continue to be among the highest in Europe;
— the main Irish banks are now highly profitable again;
— problems regarding how the banks were treating tracker mortgage customers were highlighted well before 2015 and at least 7,100 mortgage accounts were affected by tracker related issues across a number of banks up to 2015;
— in October 2015, the Central Bank of Ireland launched an industry-wide examination of tracker mortgage related issues;
— the Central Bank of Ireland has confirmed that, as of the end of September 2017, around 13,000 mortgage account holders had been wrongly denied their contractual right to a tracker rate of interest or were put on the wrong tracker rate;
— the Governor of the Central Bank of Ireland confirmed to the Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach Committee on 19th October that the number affected is almost certain to increase further;
— some banks involved in the Tracker Mortgage Examination have informally threatened the Central Bank of Ireland with legal action;
— as a direct result of being denied their rights, customers lost the ownership of 102 properties, including 23 private dwelling homes and 79 buy-to-let properties;
— the actions of the banks on this issue have caused untold damage and suffering to the people affected, and in many of these cases, no amount of compensation will be sufficient to repair the harm that has been done to peoples lives;
— the emotional and harrowing testimonies of the customers, who have highlighted the impacts on their health and mental health as a result of the banks' actions, has been pivotal in bringing this issue to light;
— according to the Central Bank of Ireland, two lenders have failed to properly identify 'populations of affected customers' and therefore have not fully completed Phase 2 of the Tracker Mortgage Examination within the required time;
— the lenders' initial redress and compensation proposals fell materially short of the Central Bank of Ireland's expectations and the regulator had to repeatedly challenge the banks to improve their proposals;
— as part of this examination, the Central Bank of Ireland has commenced enforcement investigations against Permanent TSB and Ulster Bank Ireland DAC, and is preparing two further enforcement investigations, with possibly more to follow;
— only 25 per cent of impacted mortgage accounts have to date received redress and compensation; and
— the approach taken by the banks to date is not acceptable to this House and has inflicted further unnecessary pain and hardship on those affected;
calls on the banks concerned to:
— formally apologise to the customers concerned;
— commit to correcting the overcharging as a matter of urgency and place all relevant mortgage accounts back on tracker mortgage rates without delay;
— fully and comprehensively complete Phase 2 of the Tracker Mortgage Examination process without any further delay;
— identify all customers affected by the tracker related issues without any further delay and to publish these figures in their entirety, once they are finalised;
— communicate the up-to-date position to all mortgage holders in the scope of the Tracker Mortgage Examination;
— pay redress and compensation, at a level that is at a minimum in line with Central Bank of Ireland expectations, to all affected customers without delay;
— provide a detailed explanation on how this scandal occurred in the first instance;
— cease all repossession action where the mortgage concerned is in the scope of the Tracker Mortgage Examination;
— pay adequate compensation to those who lost their home as a result of the banks actions to enable them to purchase an appropriate replacement home; and
— provide a monthly update of the position for all customers affected in the scope of the Tracker Mortgage Examination;
calls on the Central Bank of Ireland to:
— provide a firm deadline in which the Government expects all affected accounts to be identified and corrected and for all redress and compensation to be paid;
— use the full statutory powers at their disposal to ensure that the lenders meet their obligations to the affected customers without delay, by putting them on the correct rate of interest and by paying redress and compensation in line with Central Bank of Ireland expectations;
— conduct a thorough investigation, in respect of each lender in the Tracker Mortgage Examination, as to how this tracker scandal occurred in the first place;
— investigate whether there was any co-ordination, formal or informal, across the industry in the handling of tracker related issues; and
— report circumstances where it obtains information that gives rise to a suspicion that a criminal offence may have been committed by any individual to the relevant authorities including An Garda Síochána, the Revenue Commissioners, the Director of Corporate Enforcement, and the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission; and
calls on the Government to:
— meet with the Central Bank of Ireland and all banks affected and inform them that these practices are unacceptable and have to be corrected without further delay;
— provide whatever resources that are necessary to the Central Bank of Ireland to complete the Tracker Mortgage Examination;
— ensure that all statutory powers available are utilised so that lenders meet their obligations to the affected customers without delay;
— introduce legislation, on request from the Central Bank of Ireland, to confer whatever powers are necessary to allow the Central Bank to complete its work and to enable it to impose deadlines for banks to both redress and compensate customers;
— all options to impose sanctions on banks that fail to address this issue in a comprehensive and timely manner;
— voting against the reappointment of the entire board of directors in respect of the banks that the State is a shareholder of;
— introducing legislation that would cease all insolvency and repossession proceedings on all tracker related mortgages until all affected customers are redressed and compensated;
— introducing legislation that would empower the Financial Services Ombudsman to independently arrive at redress and compensation levels in both this instance and in future instances;
— introducing legislation that would enable class action suits that would enable a group of affected customers to collectively take legal action against lenders; and
— strengthen consumer protection laws for bank customers and to provide extra powers to the Central Bank of Ireland and the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission;
— further consider introducing legislation that would make senior decision makers and directors personally liable for decisions made under their remit that have directly led to wrongdoings and to increase the penalties for such offences;
— introduce a helpline in the Central Bank of Ireland and the Financial Services Ombudsman to assist bank customers in relation to tracker mortgages; and
— reaffirm its commitment on the pay cap in place for banks and the ban on bonuses."
I want the Minister of State to imagine a scenario where he loses his home, the home in which he spent the most precious moments with his family and the home where he has so many happy memories and some not so happy memories, and he loses that home not because of anything he or his family did wrong but because the bank took his money and denied him the ability to pay his mortgage. That is the reality of the issue we are raising tonight regarding the tracker mortgage scandal. This is a human story. It is not a story about account numbers, populations or cohorts of customers. It is about people - real people. It is about the cases of self-harm, the mental stress and anxiety, the lost memories, the things people could not afford to do for so many years, the people who suffered strokes and the families that decided they could have no more children. These are just some of the examples of the real-life consequences people caught up in this scandal have had to deal with over the past ten years or so. It is about the people we represent in this House. The onus is on us to put their interests first - ahead of anybody else. The truth is that thousands of people - an unknown number if truth be told - have been living with this nightmare for up to a decade and longer. The Government cannot compensate them. That is the reality. How can it compensate people for those consequences? It simply cannot do it but what it must do is do its best to right the wrong and make sure they get the justice they deserve.
Against that harrowing background, commercial banks in this country have threatened the Central Bank with legal action for doing its job and endeavouring to protect consumers. God knows, the Central Bank could have done better in all of this as well. There is no question about that. As we debate this issue tonight, the stark reality is that at least 75% of the people caught up in this have not got their money back. Their own money has not been repaid to them by the banks that took it from them. That is the situation tonight. With all the hand-wringing and all the tough language from the Government, people are still out of pocket and have not been given their own money.
The truth is that the Government has been incredibly slow to wake up to this problem and indeed to its scale. The response today from the Minister, Deputy Donohoe, and the Government is not adequate. The bankers who caused this will sleep well tonight - there is no question about that - but the people whose lives they have devastated in some cases will continue to have sleepless nights because their nightmare continues. That is the reality I want the Minister of State and everyone in government to accept. Looking at all the statements from the banks, the Minister and the Central Bank, I have no confidence that we will not be here this time next year still dealing with the fallout from this issue. The truth is that no deadline has been imposed for the repayment of people's own money. In a statement today, Ulster Bank told us that it could be up to the middle of next year, June 2018, and that is for the customers who have been identified.
They are the mortgage customers whose account numbers they have. They know who they are, how long they were overcharged for and how much they have been overcharged by, yet we are being told they may have to wait until next June before they get their own money back.
The banks' actions have been reprehensible in creating this problem in the first place and in their handling of it over the past ten years or so. The Central Bank has told us as much. The banks have failed to identify customers which the Central Bank knows have been affected by this issue. The Central Bank has told us it had to repeatedly challenge the banks on the scale of redress and compensation to be paid to customers caught up in this. That is the reality. The banks have not been open, transparent or upfront in their dealings in this issue. They have had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, every step of the way to ensure people got their money back. Above all else, what I really want to know is - it is a question for the Central Bank as much as it is for the Minister of State and the Government - will there be accountability at the end of this? Will we ever find out how this scandal happened? I am not so sure we will because the Central Bank has concluded an enforcement investigation into the first part of this which concerned Springboard Mortgages.
The Central Bank found Springboard Mortgages was wrong. It caught it out, reprimanded it and fined it €4.5 million. We might as well be fining ourselves. I do not say that because we own shares in the banks. I say it because it is fining the customers because that is ultimately where fines are collected and paid. In that case, up to €68,000 was taken from individual customers. There has been no individual accountability for it. That is the investigation that has been concluded. If it is a taste of what is to come with the other ten lenders caught up in this, it is just not good enough that at the end of this, we will not know the simple truth. We will not know the answer to the simple question: how did it happen in the first place? I do not believe for a second it was all an accident. I do not believe that all the banks happened to make the same mistake around the same time in a way that cost their customers money but was in the financial interest of the bank. It would stretch the credibility of any person in this country to believe that to be the case and I certainly do not.
What could the Minister have done? He could have said today that the Central Bank will be given whatever resources it needs to deal with this, not the paltry 26 people it currently has working on it compared with the 1,000 people it has working across the banking system. The Minister could have said fitness and probity powers would be invoked under the 2010 Act. It is an issue that needs to be addressed. He could have made it clear that in the State banks, in which we have shares, that he is prepared to vote against the reappointment of directors at the next AGM and against their remuneration packages. He could have said that but he did not. The Minister made no comment in his statement about the repossession proceedings that are ongoing for customers still caught up in this. The policy is they are not to be pursued but I do not believe that is happening. The Minister could have said he will introduce legislation for class actions. That has not happened. He could have said there will be a completely independent system of compensation set up at arm's length and completely removed from the banks. That was not said and it is not happening. He could have said that those who lost their homes because of this will be given a replacement house. They have not. He could have put a firm deadline on the issue.
There are so many things I could touch on. There is the prevailing rate issue of the 3.67% customers in AIB and the 3.25% customers in Permanent TSB. That issue needs to be dealt with. There is no mention of the staff working in the banks who are also affected by this. It has been reported there are up to 2,000 in Bank of Ireland. There is no mention of the pre-2006 customers who feel they are being denied justice at this point in time. There is no mention of the customers who have yet to be contacted. It is part of a pattern by the Government. I will revert to that later on but it is part of a pattern of deference to the banking system and the institutions that in recent years have not served us well.