Another 400 tracker rip-off cases emerge despite end of probe

Central Bank’s Derville Rowland. Photo: Colin O'Riordan

Charlie Weston

Hundreds more tracker cases have emerged, months after the Central Bank issued a final report into the scandal.

Banks have now been forced to concede another 400 tracker rip-off cases since the summer. The total number of customers impacted by the tracker scandal has jumped to 40,500, the Central Bank told the Oireachtas Finance Committee.

This is despite the Central Bank issuing what it called a final report into the tracker scandal in July, stating the number impacted was 40,100.

Central Bank director general for financial conduct Derville Rowland admitted to the committee that the extra cases have been conceded by the banks since the Central Bank published what it called the 'Final Report of Central Bank Tracker Mortgage Examination'.

Sinn Féin's Pearse Doherty told her that customers have to fight the banks themselves, challenge them and win their cases.

Only at that stage, once the case was won by the customer, did the Central Bank include the numbers in its reports.

Mr Doherty accused the Central Bank of being "asleep at the wheel".

"This was the biggest theft in the history of the State," Mr Doherty told the regulators.

He asked if the regulators have learned any lessons from what he said was its poor handling of the controversy.

Ms Rowland insisted the Central Bank "was a learning organisation" and would take heed of how the probe was handled.

She admitted that more tracker cases could emerge.

Asked by Fianna Fáil's Michael McGrath why thousands of disputed tracker cases at AIB, Permanent TSB, Bank of Ireland, Ulster Bank and EBS have not been included in the Central Bank's probe, Ms Rowland said it took on cases on behalf of customers when there was a basis to force the banks to compensation customers.

"Where there is a basis to bat for customers we absolutely do that," Ms Rowland said.

She said if disputed cases were referred to the Ombudsman, and new information emerged, that would be taken on board by the Central Bank.

The Central Bank confirmed to Mr McGrath it has had to threaten High Court action against some banks to get co-operation on the tracker investigation. Close to €700m has been paid in compensation and redress to the customers by 11 banks.

Some 23 customers got redress and compensation of more than €500,000. Three of these cases were for homes, with the rest for buy-to-let properties. The overall cost to the banks is more than €1bn.

Loss of tracker rates caused 99 people to lose their homes, with 216 people losing investment properties.

Earlier this year, Permanent TSB was fined €21m by the Central Bank for "serious failings" which affected 2,007 of its tracker mortgage customer accounts. It was the largest ever fine for a regulated firm.

AIB and its EBS subsidiary, Ulster Bank, Bank of Ireland and KBC Bank remain under enforcement investigations.

Meanwhile, Permanent TSB chief executive Jeremy Masding has said he will step down from the bank in 2020.

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