'No consent, no sale' bill opponents deny 'batting for the banks'

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Department of Finance officials vehemently rejected accusations by a TD that they are “batting for the banks” by opposing the so-called “no consent, no sale” bill.

The bill proposed by Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty and approved by TDs in the Dáil would prevent banks from selling customers’ home loans without borrower approval.

Deputy governor of the Central Bank Ed Sibley and department officials reiterated their opposition to the bill at the Oireachtas Finance Committee.

Assistant secretary in the department, Gary Tobin told TDs and senators that the bill was “radical” in its current form.

He said that the department would not assist in its passing through the various stages.

He said it was likely that the bill, though well-intentioned, would drive up interest rates and actually increase repossessions of homes by banks who would look to recoup funds by those means instead of selling the mortgages to a fund.

The official said he was “not convinced” the bill would help either existing mortgage holders or future mortgage holders.

He said mortgage borrowers would be affected as there would be fewer entrants into the market, as well as “likely” interest rate hikes.

Mr Sibley said that the same regulations to protect consumers were already in place for banks and non-banks and that the bill would “stymie” competition.

Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty
Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty

Mr Doherty said a major difference between banks and vulture funds was that there were restricted options open for borrowers when dealing with the latter.

“You are out batting for the banks, even though you are supposed to be protecting consumers,” Mr Doherty said.

He said he hoped the department would “proactively assist” Dáil members in the next stages of the bill instead of opposing it.

It would be better for consumers if “we worked together” instead of not-cooperating, Mr Doherty said.

Mr Tobin rejected claims of working on behalf of banks, saying the department’s prevailing concerns were for mortgage holders in arrears, and the potential impact on future mortgage borrowers.

Meanwhile, an Oireachtas Business Committee heard from the Law Reform Commission (LRC) on the proposed new Corporate Enforcement Authority, which is due to replace the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE).

The LRC told the committee it recommended a Corporate Crime Agency should be set up as well as the new Corporate Enforcement Authority, which will deal only with company law.

“The Commission’s proposal is that the Corporate Crime Agency would be empowered to investigate corporate crime that falls outside the regulatory remit of any of the current financial or economic regulators, whether the Central Bank, the CCPC, ComReg, or the proposed Corporate Enforcement Authority.

“Corporate offences such as false accounting and other fraud-type offences are outside the scope of such regulators, and the commission’s report concludes that a one-stop shop agency, akin to the role played by the Criminal Assets Bureau, is needed to investigate such offences.”

A dedicated unit within the Director of Public Prosecutions should liaise closely with the proposed Corporate Crime Agency, the LRC said.

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