herald

Sunday 19 August 2018

Why is no banker before the courts?

NOW is it just me or is this truly the season for delusion? Bertie thinks he could have been President, Ireland's rugby team say they can win the Rugby World Cup and now the Government says it will get the banks to listen to them.

No, you are not dreaming. Yesterday Eamon Gilmore told us they will make the banks act on the subject of stressed out mortgage holders.

So if you owe hundreds of thousands, relax! The banks will be really nice and kind and humane from now on. And Enda Kenny is going to dance naked at the FG think-in while Phil Hogan plays the flute.

Lets look at the facts.

Screwing

These banks have been screwing you and the State for a long time. Go back to the DIRT Inquiry which revealed how banks defrauded the State and were complicit in tax evasion. So you'd figure there were a good few prosecutions arising from that? Not one.

Remember AIB's insurance debacle in the UK? Garret FitzGerald and Alan Dukes had to take the decision to bail them out back then. We picked up a fair slice of the tab.

You'd think that might have taught the banks to be more careful in their practices. It might at the very least have taught them some degree of humility?

We move on. In the last few years we heard AIB former boss Eugene "we'd-rather-die-than -raise-equity'' Sheehy, brushing off the Government.

Right on, Eugene.

In 2009 AIB had exposure to a massive €22.6 billion in property and development loans.

To date, AIB has received around €20bn in various loans from you and me via the State.

Eugene has a pension reckoned to be worth more than €400,000 a year.

But still, at least they'd listen after all their screw-ups, right?

The late Brian Lenihan tried in vain to get the banks to listen to him. Brian got unfair criticism on this particular subject. I remember one phone call we had where he described how he was trying to get the pressure moving on these banks but was being resisted at every turn.



guts

They did everything they could to block him on things like bosses' salaries and director appointments.

Let's come to the present. Last November, the previous Government appointed the Expert Group on Mortgage Arrears. They came up with the 'Deferred Interest Scheme'.

It was designed to stop people whose incomes had been destroyed from losing their homes.

You could defer some of the interest for a period of up to five years. Now it transpires that only three banks are offering the scheme.

It is not even mentioned in bank brochures under options for restructuring your mortgage. And the banks will listen to Government?

So let's get real here. Until we change our culture, which means actual convictions and fines for those who are found to have abused our banking system, the Government can do all the PRT talk it likes but nothing will change.

Until politicians have the guts to take on powerful banks, they will ignore them.

Throw in the fact that bank directors, politicians and civil servants all come from the same class and you are never likely to get change.

And that is the single biggest block to change. I've always believed that Ireland is like a small village -- all the influential lads know each other. They sit on boards together.

Remember Cowen and his golf game with the Anglo lads and 'nothing was discussed'?

Meanwhile, we will be screwed because we mean nothing to the banks.

So who knows, maybe we will win the Rugby World Cup and Bertie will be President.

It's certainly more likely than the moneylenders ever listening to the Government.

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