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Calls for head of KBC group to apologise after comments about 'annoying' tracker mortgage scandal

More than 40,000 people were affected by the scandal.

Image: Shutterstock/Derick Hudson

Updated Nov 15th 2019, 11:14 AM

THERE HAVE BEEN calls for the head of Belgian bank KBC to apologise after remarks he made describing an investigation into the tracker mortgage scandal as “annoying”.

KBC Group CEO Johan Thijs hit out at the Irish Central Bank for measures it has taken against lenders for overcharging thousands of customers on their mortgages.

He described the tracker mortgage scandal as “annoying” during a conference call about the bank’s results for the third quarter yesterday.

He also called on the Irish regulator to move on from the scandal and insisted the bank had learned from its mistakes, saying that the lender had set aside €14m for an expected fine from the Central Bank.

“What is still an annoying thing is all tracker mortgage stuff. Honestly, I would recommend to [the] Central Bank of Ireland: come on, guys, turn the page,” Thijs said.

“Let’s focus on doing business. We’ve learned our lessons, we know what to do. Let’s now stop doing all the nitty gritty stuff, which is an administrative hampering of the development of the financial institution and the financial market as a whole in Ireland.

“Let’s turn that page and really go and do business.”

An investigation by the Central Bank found more than 40,000 customers were impacted by the scandal, which saw them refused the right to return to tracker loans by Irish banks during the economic downturn.

In the worst cases, people lost their homes because of their lenders’ failings. The Central Bank subsequently issued around €700m in fines to the five banks responsible.

Fianna Fáil’s Finance spokesman Michael McGrath called on Thijs to apologise, saying his comments were “ill-judged, ill-informed and deeply hurtful”.

“The irony is that if some banks had not dragged their feet and sought at every turn to minimise the amount of customers to be compensated, the tracker scandal could have been well closed out at this stage,” he said.

Financial adviser Padraic Kissane – who represented many of those impacted by the scandal – also told Morning Ireland that Thijs’ comments were insensitive and lacked empathy.

“What concerns me here is that there are people who were affected to such a degree that they can’t simply flip a page as he would like everybody to do here,” he said.

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“They have to live with the consequences of this.”

But speaking on RTÉ’s Prime Time last night, chief executive of the Banking and Payments Federation of Ireland Brian Hayes claimed Thijs’ comments expressed a frustration among banks about the scandal.

“I am not going to defend what the banks did, [and] the banks do not defend what they did. But we need to move to a healthy new position,” he said.

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