I thank the Chairman for inviting me to speak, to highlight and to provide a human picture of the sheer devastation the bank has caused me and my family for the past 11 years. I approached the bank in good faith in the hope of reaching agreement with regard to a loan facility for the purchase a family home. I am a strong family man and live for my children and my one grandchild. I have always prided myself on my honesty and have a huge resistance to dishonesty and wrong-doing. I come from a very much respected Kilkenny family and my late dad was awarded Kilkenny person of the year in 2002 for his lifelong dedication to amateur drama and sport.
The agreement that was reached in April 2004 between Bank of Ireland and me was for a credit facility equating to a loan to value ratio of 90% for the purchase of a family home to the value of €245,000. The bank provided for a discounted variable rate of 2.69% for a period of 12 months, which was welcomed, noting no arrears. The bank had unilaterally retained a higher marginal rate of 1.10% some 12 months after the negotiation of the contract. However, it applied a rate of 1.60%. This higher marginal rate formed the central aspect of my mortgage contract with the bank and I entered into it in good faith. The expectation that the bank would act in my best interests and honour the central aspect of my mortgage appears to be a lost expectation.
Twelve months after reaching agreement with the bank, a business record detailing my business relationship going forward was entered into my mortgage file by a Bank of Ireland financial adviser as the discounted period was nearing an end. This business record identified with my mortgage account and qualifying tracker rate prerequisites, namely, a home loan, a loan amount of in excess of €200,000 and a loan to value greater than 60%, contractually entitled me to an ECB tracker rate in addition to a 1.10% Bank of Ireland Group marginal rate above the ECB rate.
The bank had informed me, following my complaint and investigation in 2014, that “there is no provision anywhere in your mortgage agreement for a tracker rate of interest”. This is untrue and contradicts the business record of my banking relationship with the bank entered on my mortgage file as interpreted by the bank’s financial adviser dating back to April 2005. The bank set about denying my business relationship in pursuit of increased interest payments and was prepared to rely on redacted documents, withhold relevant documents, misrepresent terms and, in my case, produce a mortgage deed that triggered a civil procedure to possess my family home. How wrong was I to expect the bank to act in good faith with my best financial interests front and centre when profitability for the bank is at stake.
The operational effect of my variable rate mortgage with the bank allowed for positive and negative variable rates to be adopted by the bank and applied to my mortgage contract on foot of ECB announcements during this time. Following the banking crash of 2008 and the removal of tracker rates as a viable option for Bank of Ireland Group in 2008, positive and negative reflections continued to be applied to my mortgage account, reasonably understood as a tracker mortgage. The bank cannot exercise discretion over ECB variable rates of interest. How wrong was I to expect the bank to honour its side of the bargain.
Following the banking crash, my mortgage agreement fundamentally changed. In April 2010, two years after the banking crash, the bank unilaterally and fundamentally, without consent of any description, changed my mortgage contract and agreement whereby it exercised total control over my variable rate mortgage. ECB rates were no longer adopted and applied to my mortgage contract. This totally changed my life. The immediate impact was that it generated arrears for the first time in my life on my mortgage, pushing me into me an unnecessary default.
Several case managers adopted the same attitude. Terms were introduced into my mortgage, with bank officials misrepresenting my contract in a way that was not visible in loan offer documentation, and these terms were known or should have been known to unilaterally alter the central aspect of my mortgage contract. A common thread adopted by the bank was to deny, defend, delay and destroy anyone who dared to question. The psychological reign of terror put on me by the bank had a devastating effect on all aspects of my life. The line adopted by the bank was that at all times when a variable interest rate applies to the loan, the interest rate chargeable will vary at the lender’s discretion, upwards or downwards. What the bank failed to include and consider is that clause 6(a) in the loan offer was that it was subject to a referencing index in the same loan offer. For Bank of Ireland to apply the term “variable rate” in such a manner is unfair within the meaning of the EU directive on unfair terms in consumer contracts, and it was utilised to deprive me of a tracker mortgage examination and appeal procedure mandated by the Central Bank.
How and why the bank was retrofitting my mortgage contract with higher rates caused me untold and life changing personal damage, and the reason for this was simply to increase the bank’s profitability. Over the time period involved with dealing with the bank, my health deteriorated very significantly. I suffered two heart attacks, was fitted with cardiac stents and finally was subjected to a quintuple coronary artery bypass graft in 2014. I was left with no other option but to retire from my very well paid job with the National Ambulance Service, a job I loved.
Due to what can only be regarded as a presumption at law, namely, that the bank at all times acted honourably and honestly, the court moved to grant a possession order on my family home, despite forensic evidence of overcharging and overwhelming evidence of a tracker mortgage scandal, of which I was a part. On appeal, the court did not admit my sworn evidence of truth as it was claimed by the bank to contain legal argument. My contractual business relationship with the bank in 2004 and 2005 was knowingly withheld from me and from the entire court process by the bank, including my appeal, despite freedom of information requests prior to the commencement of a summary application made to the court seeking possession of my family home.
The court's own motion regarding an assessment of unfair contracts was sidetracked and cast aside. A general data protection regulation, GDPR, data request under Article 15 in 2019 subsequently discovered, for the first time and following the courts process, the existence of the business record and the classification of my mortgage product as a tracker product. The bank determined that my account was not impacted and is not within the scope for a tracker mortgage examination despite the bank’s records identifying my mortgage as an European Central Bank, ECB, tracker variable, with the rate set at 1.10% above the ECB rate in 2005. The bank also chose to ignore the criteria set by the Central Bank of Ireland in determining whether accounts are within the scope. This, in turn, also deprived me of an appeal process under the examination process.
The impact on me personally during this reign of terror, during which the bank defended the indefensible, delayed the inevitable, and denied the obvious, has been akin to living a hell on earth. One stares financial ruin directly in the face and lives with the real and present risk of homelessness destroying one as a person as one receives the dreaded visit from a sheriff or private security firm to evict one from one's family home.
I thank the committee for giving me the opportunity to expose this clear and obvious wrongdoing. It stands in plain view to the reasonable man, although this is a contention the bank will do anything to deny. I hereby call on Francesca McDonagh to honour a commitment she personally gave to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach on her appointment as chief executive officer to the Bank of Ireland Group.