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Bank of Ireland hit with record €100.5 million fine over tracker mortgage scandal

The bank denied nearly 16,000 of its customers access to cheaper tracker mortgages.

The Central Bank investigated all lenders that sold the tracker mortgages. File photo.
The Central Bank investigated all lenders that sold the tracker mortgages. File photo.
Image: Sasko Lazarov

BANK OF IRELAND has been hit with a record €100,520,000 fine by the Central Bank for its role in the tracker mortgage controversy.

The Central Bank has sanctioned the company for denying thousands of its customers access to cheaper tracker mortgages.

It said today that the reprimand was issued for a series of significant and long-running failings in respect of 15,910 tracker mortgage customer accounts which were impacted between August 2004 and June 2022.

Bank of Ireland admitted in full to 81 separate regulatory breaches. 

The regulator determined the appropriate fine was €143,600,000,1 which was reduced by 30% to €100,520,000 in accordance with a settlement discount scheme.

“This is the largest fine imposed to date by the Central Bank and is in addition to the more than €186,400,000 Bank of Ireland has already paid to impacted customers identified prior to and as part of the Central Bank’s Tracker Mortgage Examination,” the Central Bank said.

Bank of Ireland’s failures resulted in the loss of 50 properties, including 25 family homes, which would have been avoided if Bank of Ireland had complied with the most basic and fundamental of its consumer protection obligations.

Apology

Bank of Ireland apologised to customers for its wide range of failings, particularly those that led to customer harm and detriment, and for the length of time it took to recognise and resolve the issues.

The financial firm noted that its regulatory breaches included the provision of unclear contractual documents to customers, failure to interpret these unclear documents in customers’ best interests, unfair complaints handling, deficient mortgage systems and controls, and wrongful exclusion of customers from the protections of the Tracker Mortgage Examination.

Bank of Ireland’s Interim Chief Executive Gavin Kelly said: “Today’s statement from the Central Bank of Ireland is extremely critical of Bank of Ireland. We understand – and fully accept – why this is. What took place in relation to tracker mortgages was wrong. It should never have happened. We are very sorry that it did.

“We unreservedly apologise to all customers harmed by the tracker mortgage issue. The impacts were significant and wide reaching, up to and including loss of homes in the most serious of cases,” Kelly said.

The Irish Banking Culture Board (IBCB) said today is a milestone day for the Irish banking sector, its customers and its stakeholders.

“It is essential that today’s announcement acts as a book-end to the unacceptable behaviour and culture within banking which contributed to the tracker mortgage period, and that the issues identified by the Central Bank of Ireland (CBI) are not forgotten, but rather act as a source of ongoing motivation for lasting cultural and behavioural change,” it said.

Investigation

The fine follows an enforcement investigation by the financial regulator that has been ongoing for six years.

The tracker mortgage controversy saw tens of thousands of customers being overcharged by their lenders when they were either denied a tracker rate they were entitled to, or charged the wrong rate of interest on their mortgage.

In many cases, the overcharging ran into tens of thousands of euro – in the worst cases people lost their homes as a direct result of the bank’s action.

The Central Bank has already slapped major fines on other lenders for their part in the industry-wide scandal.

In June, AIB received a fine of €83.3 million while EBS received a fine of €13.4 million. for their part in the scandal.

In March of last year, Ulster Bank was fined almost €37.8 million, Permanent TSB was fined €21 million in 2020 and KBC Bank Ireland was fined over €18.3 million.

The IBCB noted that the fine imposed today brings the cumulative fines imposed on the five Irish retail banks to €272 million.

“These fines are unprecedented and reflect the gravity of the CBI’s findings, however, as previously noted by the IBCB, it is essential that the human cost of the tracker mortgage related failings by the industry is not overshadowed by the size of the CBI fines and the costs of redress,” it said.

“In many instances this human cost is impossible to quantify, particularly given the financial impact coincided with the wider national and global economic crashes with resultant negative income consequences for many.”

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About the author:

Céimin Burke

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