Analysis: Wronged tracker mortgage cases just keep growing

How did an over-charging scandal involving 1,400 people at a single banking group, in the summer of 2015, grow to encompass 8,200 customers across 15 lenders by last Monday, and then climb to 15,000 cases, and counting, by yesterday?
Analysis: Wronged tracker mortgage cases just keep growing

The tracker mortgage scandal publicly surfaced two years ago, when the State-controlled Permanent TSB set aside tens of millions in its accounts for a potential redress scheme in the run-up to a shares sale.

Permanent and its former Springboard unit were subsequently fined by the Central Bank.

All the leading lenders selling trackers during the boom years were involved, though bank chiefs, characteristically, were grudging in admitting the scale of the probe.

For the past year, they hid behind public relations statements (familiar to business journalists covering previous overcharging cases) that they were fully co-operating with the regulator — as if not fully co-operating were a legal option.

On Monday, the Central Bank, for the first time, named the list of 15 lenders to which it had written a year ago, but did not explain why it had not published the list before.

And it mentioned a specific figure of 8,200 wronged customers, though it was believed that 10,000 customers would be detected when the probe was completed by next summer.

By yesterday lunchtime, the figure had ballooned to 15,000, including Bank of Ireland customers who had been taken off trackers in 2011 only to be restored soon after by order of the Central Bank.

By the close of business yesterday, the Irish Examiner understood that the new figure, of 15,000, was likely to be exceeded. At the Oireachtas Finance Committee yesterday, Central Bank governor Philip Lane estimated, under questioning, that 15,000 customers could be affected by the tracker mortgage scandal, including up to 100 who lost their homes as a result.

He said: “Let me assure you, the Central Bank will take all necessary action to hold regulated firms and individuals to account for failures in relation to tracker mortgages. The process we are overseeing is exhaustive, but takes time.”

TDs and senators said the Central Bank had failed ordinary citizens by taking so long to act. Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty estimated that 15,000 customers, rather than the 8,200 once mooted, were involved, and Mr Lane conceded that the estimate was a reasonable one.

Committee chairman John McGuinness of Fianna Fáil accused Mr Lane and the Central Bank of being afraid of the banks, a charge Mr Lane vehemently rejected.

Mr Lane said that regulatory powers were now more extensive. A court case involving Permanent TSB had held up the process for a number of years, he said, leading to the delay in completing the review, which was painstaking.

The list of the banks under investigation includes AIB and its EBS and Haven units, Bank of Ireland, Dilosk, Permanent TSB and its former Springboard unit, Ulster Bank, KBC, Danske and Pepper Asset Servicing, ACC, Bank of Scotland, Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, Leeds Building Society, Start Mortgages, and Stepstone.

In other words, anyone who was sold a tracker mortgage could have been over-charged.

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