Like Not Once, Never…
I can’t tell you how infuriated I am by the recent hand-wringing in Government and high office in relation to the tracker mortgage Scandal.
That’s right a Scandal with a capital ‘S’! (To be distinguished from the Sindo’s view of a scandal this week (with a small s!) of the whatsapp messages emanating from Ballyragget CLG).
Now I’m not one normally for hyperbole or over-reactions but this is really disgraceful and pathetic from both the Minister for Finance and the Governor of the Central Bank.
For the Minister to suggest that the most important thing here is to ensure that those who were deceived be compensated is simply disingenuous. It’s an attempt to hide from the real issue, to cloak himself in some level of sanctity, like; sure who could argue with that sentiment.
Gene Kerrigan gave an apt description of the whole debacle comparing it to the Gardai going to someone who stole your car and asking them to return it at some stage in the future. I’m not normally a fan of Gene Kerrigan’s but today he hit the nail on the head. The *ankers should not just return this money immediately with interest and penalties but they must be held accountable for their actions.
Imagine how the banks (small b) would treat you and I if we decided we were simply not going to pay our mortgage ’til maybe next summer or even next Christmas? You’ll understand Mr *anker, it’s just while I carry out an internal review of things, get a better handle on our finances and sure, I’m not sure if I have a mortgage at all, or if I should be paying it, it’ll only take a couple of years…Get a grip. They’d be down your throat so fast…like a ton of bricks.
But that’s exactly what it would appear that they want to do and they expect us to concur. Brush this all under the carpet, downplay it, sure I’m sure it’s all a big mishtake.
And why would we be surprised about that? Of course they’ll try and get away with it, haven’t they gotten away with far worse? And you can’t blame a fella for trying, if you don’t ask, you don’t get…The problem here isn’t just the *ankers, it’s the Central Bank and the Minister.
You see when the Central Bank says that it doesn’t have enforcement powers, it can’t meddle in individual contracts it’s probably right. That’s a civil matter between the borrower and the *ankers and it is correct for the Minister to say that the individual borrower may not have the resources to take on the deep pockets of the *ankers. But what he’s neglecting to say is that the Central Bank has a much, much bigger stick, a very very big stick indeed. For the life of me though I cannot fathom not only why Lane and Donhoe refuse to stand up to the *ankers but why they insist on treating the public with such utter disdain. Of course they trot out the usual catchphrases, but clearly they have absolutely no intention of intervening. What is it that the *ankers hold over them?
I ask this metaphorically but also because I would genuinely want to know. It’s because, as mentioned above, I have first hand knowledge of the wrath of the Central Bank, of the resources that it can bring to measure against a financial services business if it deems it appropriate. See, as I said above they do have significant powers to bring the *ankers to heal. They are after all the body who licences *ankers in this country. Now that’s not just the banks themselves but each and every individual *anker in each bank who carries out certain functions is obliged to hold a type of licence from the Central Bank which says that they are fit and proper people to hold such a licence and that essentially they are fit and proper people to handle people’s money.
Now clearly that is not the case here. I don’t mean that they don’t hold the licences but clearly some if not a great many of these *ankers are not fit and proper people to either hold such a licence (it’s called a PCF licence) or to be responsible for other people’s money. You see clearly some of these *ankers are not nice people at all. Now really, there’s nothing wrong with not being a nice person (well nothing illegal anyway) and in fact it works quite well when you’re a *anker anyway, but when you start throwing dishonesty into the mix then we start getting into the realms of why do these people continue to be licenced by the Central Bank and why is the Central Bank not carrying out a whole host of investigations into each and every one of these *ankers?
I would love to get at the answer to that question. You see when you call a load of *ankers into a room and start telling them that you’re disappointed in them (again) and that it’s very unfortunate that they haven’t apologised and that you’d like them to do more…then you’re only going to get one answer and you’ve only got yourself to blame for what that is. If you were tell these fells though on the other hand that sorry lads, it’s like this, you have two weeks to get your cheque books out, and the way it’s going to work is like this…and by the way, we’re also commencing immediate investigations into every single one of ye and what that means is that by the end of this, every single one of ye could be looking for new professions, because if it turns out that any of ye or the people ye’re responsible for acted in a way that was dishonest, if it’s the case that you took advantage of people in their darkest hour, then you are not people who are fit and proper to conduct this type of business. You are dealing with other people’s money and we must be able to trust you and if we can’t you can sling your hook ‘cos you can no longer work in this game.
You see all *ankers must comply with the Fitness and Probity Standards applicable to their approval issued by the Central Bank pursuant to Section 50 of the Central Bank (Reform) Act 2010 (the “Fitness and Probity Standards”). All *ankers holding a PCF must agree that agree to abide by such standards.
You see the Central Bank has the power under Section 25 of the Central Bank Reform Act 2010 (as amended) to issue what’s called a Notice of Intention to Commence an Investigation. The Central Bank can commence an investigation into any of these *ankers under Section 25(1) of the Central Bank Reform Act 2010 (as amended) (“the 2010 Act”). That would mean that the Central Bank could conduct an investigation into the fitness and probity of any person in any of these banks performing a controlled function, where there is reason to suspect the person’s fitness and probity and that in the circumstances an investigation is warranted.
For example, if there is reason to suspect that the person does not satisfy an applicable standard of fitness and probity or the person has participated in serious misconduct in relation to the business of a regulated financial service provider.
Under Section 45 of the Central Bank (Supervision and Enforcement) Act 2013 (“the 2013 Act”) then the Central Bank may compel a Bank to;
(a) to suspend, for such period not exceeding 12 months as is specified in the direction, any one or more of the following:
(i) the provision of any financial service, or description of financial service, specified in the direction;
(ii) the making of payments to which subparagraph (i) does not relate or any such payments or description of such payments specified in the direction;
(iii) the acquisition or disposal of any assets or liabilities, or description of assets or liabilities, specified in the direction;
(iv) entering into transactions or agreements, or description of transactions or agreements, specified in the direction, or entering into them except in specified circumstances or to a specified extent;
(v) soliciting business from persons of a class specified in the direction;
(vi) carrying on business in a manner specified in the direction or otherwise than in a manner so specified.
(d) to make such modifications to its systems and controls as may be specified in the direction.
(e) to make such modifications to its business practices and dealings with third parties as may be specified in the direction.
So you see, the Central Bank has plenty of power to resolve this Scandal, it or he just doesn’t want to use them it would seem.
In fairness, it seems in this country that you’d be in far more trouble if you took a few steamy pictures at a 21st in Kilkenny than if you stole a person’s hard earned cash and a big part of their life.