Paschal Donohoe and Micheál Martin pictured in Dublin Castle last month. Sasko Lazarov

Banker accountability Bill brought forward to Cabinet

The Bill aims to give greater powers to regulators to punish individual misconduct.

LEGISLATION THAT WILL give the Central Bank more power to tackle individual bankers for wrongdoing was brought forward to Cabinet today. 

Finance minister Paschal Donohoe confirmed recently that after much delay, the Central Bank (Individual Accountability Framework) Bill will establish the so-called “senior executive accountability regime” (SEAR).

The Bill aims to give greater powers to regulators to punish individual misconduct.

Minister Donohoe sought approval for the text of the Bill at a Cabinet meeting today. 

Under the current administrative sanctions scheme, the Central Bank can only investigate and sanction individual executives and employees once it has proved that the company itself has broken the rules.

The new Bill seeks to break this link by introducing SEAR, which would force regulated firms to produce a statement of responsibility for each person working there, allowing the Central Bank to easily identify who is in charge when an issue arises in a particular area of the business.

Minister Donohoe has said that SEAR will apply to those in management roles such as chief operating officers, chief executives, members of the board and members of a partnership.

Firms in scope for this legislation will include credit institutions such as banks, insurance firms and investment firms.

SEAR was first mooted by the Central Bank in 2018 in a report on behaviour and culture in the financial services sector in the wake of the tracker mortgage scandal.

Last month, the Central Bank fined AIB and EBS almost €100 million for the role of the two banks in the tracker mortgage scandal.

The fines follow an enforcement investigation by the regulator that has been ongoing for five years.

AIB received a record fine of €83.3 million while EBS received a fine of €13.4 million.

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 worse cases people lost their homes as a direct result of the bank’s action.

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