herald

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Bank 'watchdogs' paid €2m in fees -- but never reported to the Minister

THEY are paid a hefty fee to protect the taxpayer, but the bank watchdogs have never once reported to the Finance Minister, it has emerged.

Public interest directors -- installed to protect the taxpayers' bank bailout -- have taken more than €2m in fees, but have failed to issue a single report to the Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan.

The 12-strong team of ex-politicians and retired civil servants have never even had a formal meeting with the Minister in the four years of its existence.

During their first appearance before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Finance, three of the directors and Government nominee Michael Somers warned about the dangers of giving debt forgiveness to "chancers" and blamed the banking crisis on global banking malaise.

Bonuses

But during some jaw-dropping exchanges, it was the fees paid to the directors that came under the spotlight.

Former Tanaiste and Labour leader Dick Spring has insisted that the €59,000 he claimed last year on top of his annual €121,000 pension was "reasonable for the effort and time I put in".

Mr Spring has so far earned €132,000 in fees as a director at AIB.

Ex-agriculture minister Joe Walsh, who has been paid more than €238,000 in the past three years, could not explain how €66m in staff bonuses was paid out at Bank of Ireland on his watch.

He said he considered himself answerable to the Finance Minister, but had not reported to Michael Noonan in four years at the bank.

Mr Walsh told the committee that directors and executives of Bank of Ireland were not to blame for the near-collapse of the bank, which was due to a "general banking malaise worldwide".

Michael Somers, former head of the NTMA, has been paid €248,000 in fees over two years said that, during his time on the board, he had seen significant stabilisation and recovery at AIB.

He warned the banks would be publicly humiliated if they wrote off mortgage debt for "chancers" and ruled out massive debt forgiveness.



Address

"If AIB engaged in mass debt write-offs, some undeserving case would benefit and be publicised," he said. "We would be hung out to dry on it."

Tom Considine, a former secretary general of the Department of Finance, was paid fees of €259,000 on top of his pension of €125,000.

In his address to the committee, he said a decision by Bank of Ireland to increase credit card charges this week was unfortunate, but the bank had to be put in a viable position.

The so-called public interest directors were appointed in 2009 to each of the banks bailed out with taxpayers' money.

Each bank has two public interest directors and in each case they are a former government minister or a retired civil servant.

All are retired and understood to be on publicly funded pensions of more than €100,000 a year in addition to the fees paid under their public interest directorship.

Despite being paid more than €2m in fees so far, the directors have never reported to the Minister for Finance.

Opinion

Entertainment News