Ulster Bank chief executive Gerry Mallon and other top officials appeared before the Oireachtas Finance Committee where they were grilled by TDs and senators over the failure to address the tracker customer redress in a timely manner.
Mr Mallon said since Ulster Bank had last appeared at the committee in December, it has raised its estimates of the numbers of its customers by 2,000 customers to 3,500. Some 2,500 customers have been restored, while 1,000 have redeemed or switched lenders.
Mr Mallon admitted it was a “slow start” towards redress and compensation but said it was a very complicated process. It will be long into 2018 before all customers will be compensated, he added.
Committee members lambasted Mr Mallon and Ulster Bank officials.
Fianna Fáil TD Michael McGrath said: “We are now up at 3,500 and 1% have had their money repaid. If the shoe was on the other foot, you wouldn’t be shy in collecting. We have all heard the human stories on this committee, some of which are harrowing.”
Mr Mallon said the bank had found new customers on top of the 14 previously acknowledged to have lost their homes because of the errors. The final numbers “will be in the 10s”, he added.
All of the homes lost by customers have been sold on and the bank have given €50,000 to those affected as a gesture of goodwill, chief financial officer Paul Stanley said. Some customers will be entitled to upwards of €100,000, he added.
Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty accused Ulster Bank of “dragging its heels”.
“Why can other banks get their act together and you can’t? Forty people — how can you be so far behind? The figures are staggering,” he said.
The bank was accused of selling on thousands of business loans between €1m and €2m through its Global Restructuring Group to vulture funds in order to protect its own interests, while not offering the same protection to its customers. It said some of the loans sold on may have been for viable trading businesses, not just those in severe financial distress.
Committee chairman John McGuinness said: “This is like Groundhog Day. What efforts were made to separate performing loans, to save the better parts of businesses, before the good, the bad and the ugly were all put into one basket? Viable business was not separated.” He said despite Mr Mallon’s statements that the bank was taking the tracker mortgage situation very seriously, the lack of action proved otherwise.
He cited a family who had written to the committee to say they had still not received a satisfactory response from Ulster Bank after paying thousands of euro extra because of the tracker scandal. “This customer was overpaying €400 for seven years. They have gone without food and heat, they have sacrificed any holidays. They estimate they are owed €30,000. It is totally unacceptable in any society the way this family has been treated,” he said.
The bank has set aside €200m for the tracker scandal, which saw thousands of customers put on incorrect rates by more than a dozen lenders.