Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe says he believes those affected by the tracker mortgage scandal will rise above the current 33,000 but will be “incremental rather than substantial” in number.
Mr Donohoe appeared before TDs and senators at the Oireachtas Finance Committee, where he would not say if the final bill for the tracker scandal would reach €1bn as previously estimated, but said that he understood how such a figure was extrapolated.
He said about €250m has now been paid to just under 13,000 victims of the scandal, which happened when thousands of tracker mortgage holders were wrongly put on more expensive loans. The Central Bank is reviewing two million mortgages in the biggest review of its kind in the history of the State.
Mr Donohoe said that he expected new cases on top of the 33,000 to be “in the hundreds” rather than thousands more, but that such a number was still “hundreds too many”. He said he would be “gravely disappointed” if the magnitude was much higher.
He said he expected a further update from the Central Bank at the end of March, warning that if sufficient progress had not been made, the Government would “be prepared to consider further possible actions” against the five major banks — AIB, Bank of Ireland, Permanent TSB, Ulster Bank and KBC Ireland — and other culpable lenders.
Mr Donohoe urged those who felt redress and compensation from the banks was inadequate to appeal their case, saying their original payout would not be reduced even if the appeal was unsuccessful.
He said the scandal was “gigantic and life-changing” for many of those affected, and that he regretted only calling in the heads of the major banks last October rather than the previous January to impress the need for it to be resolved.
When pressed by committee members on if he felt individuals should be held accountable in law, Mr Donohoe said: “We can only prosecute people in accordance with the law available. If I offered my personal view now, it would be detrimental to the work of the Central Bank.”
Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty said if such a scandal had happened in the US, some bankers would “be taken out in handcuffs”, adding that compensation offered in many cases was “pathetic”.
When asked if the culture of banking had played its part in the scandal, Mr Donohoe said he believed some organisations had operated an internal system that had a “harrowing” effect on some citizens.
He said “in light of the appalling behaviour”, the Central Bank was preparing a report on behaviour and culture within banks.