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debt writedown

AIB insists 'no special deals' for nearly 2,000 customers who received 90% debt write-down

The Oireachtas Finance Committee has questioned AIB on its policy on debt write-downs.

LAST UPDATE | 2 Mar 2023

AIB HAS DENIED that nearly 2,000 of its customers who received over a 90% write-down of their loan received special treatment or deals that were not available to the majority of its customers.

Executives in the bank told an Oireachtas committee today that the number of borrowers, other than those who went through a bankruptcy or insolvency process, who have received a reduction of over 90% of their loan amounted to circa 1,900.

Compared to around 150,000 customer resolutions, this represents a ratio of just over 1%, they said.

Answering questions from Sinn Féin’s finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty, AIB’s managing director of retail banking Jim O’Keeffe said the bank applies the same process to everyone for dealing with potential debt write offs.

“It is not the old world of somebody landing into the bank and saying: ‘I am here, I owe you x and I am going to cut a deal and we are going to halve it.’ That is not how we operate,” he said.

“I can categorically tell you, there are no special deals for special individuals coming to AIB.”

Questions have arisen after it was revealed that a debt of €9.5 million owed by former Kilkenny hurler DJ Carey was reportedly written down to €60,000 in 2017. 

RTÉ’s Prime Time reported that Carey had received a 99.37% reduction of his debt and that he settled the debt with the State-owned bank in 2017. The agreement also allowed AIB to sell properties held as securities for the loans, which raised €1.52 million for the bank.

The bankers told committee members today that the bank is not permitted under law with respect to customer confidentiality to reveal or discuss details of any particular account or customer transaction.

Doherty said that he had been contacted by people who had been “pursued for residual debt, they can’t get an arrangement with AIB.”

The Donegal TD said one constituent’s home, which had been constructed with mica blocks, had been demolished but they still had to pay the mortgage on it.

He asked O’Keeffe: “Does AIB have a policy for the top 1% in this country?”

O’Keeffe apologised to customers who felt that they “have been subject to something that doesn’t happen to a wider group.

“I can assure you, that is not the case.”

Patterns

Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín asked if AIB has any data on the background of the people who secure significant debt write-downs.

“Some people will be influential, some people will have the power to bring people along with them. Other people who maybe have less education or from a lower socioeconomic background may have less individual power.

“Is there any mechanism whereby the bank, proofs against that?”

O’Keeffe said: “Our objective here was to protect families and homes from the very beginning of it.

“Any sign of a conflict, you know, we manage that very carefully.”

Commentary

O’Keeffe’s opening statement said: “We have been aware, obviously, of recent commentary about our approach to supporting customers in difficulty and the policies underpinning same.

“Unfortunately, many aspects of this commentary have been incomplete and have not presented the full picture.”

He said AIB endeavours to reach a final settlement with borrowers that may include the write-down of outstanding debt in certain circumstances.

“These circumstances will vary from borrower to borrower but the overriding principles governing resolution of the position for both the customer and the bank are applied consistently on every occasion.”

Resolutions 

The bank sets out that resolutions are based on a customer’s ability to repay, “taking account of their assets and their sustainable income levels and prospects”.

O’Keeffe said its policies are directed by clear rules and principles that are applied consistently with respect to the identification, assessment, granting, management, monitoring and reporting of forbearance processes and decisions.

Legal action generally only arises where customers have not engaged with the bank about their non-performing debt.

Customers are still afforded the opportunity to engage or re-engage to settle any outstanding liability at any stage in the process including post disposal of the assets involved.

If they do, this may lead to a situation where a final settlement or compromise is agreed that may include a partial or full write-off of debt.

A number of politicians have raised concerns about the reported Carey writedown, with junior enterprise minister Neale Richmond stating that the details of the settlement were “extremely worrying”.

Aontú’s Tóibín said that he was concerned by AIB’s writedown of Carey’s debt and questioned how many similar deals had taken place in recent years.

Meanwhile, Catherine Murphy of the Social Democrats has said that AIB needs to detail its methodology for write downs on debt.

“We’re certainly having contact from people who feel very aggrieved that they were put through the ringer for a relatively small amount of money,” Murphy said.

Additional reporting by Emer Moreau

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