Padraic Kissane appearing before an Oireachtas Committee in 2017 in relation to the Tracker Investigation.
tracker mortgage scandal

The wound will always remain: The families affected by the Tracker Mortgage Scandal

‘One family have to drive past the house they did own every day’.

“THERE’S EXCITEMENT FOR about 20 or 30 seconds when they see a cheque. Then it turns to anger. And the third emotion is, the ‘what if’ questions begin.

“What if they hadn’t been overcharged that amount of money every month? What would it have changed in their lives?”

That is how financial services advisor Padraic Kissane describes the moment when those who were affected by the tracker mortgage scandal received their letters of redress.

Kissane represented several customers affected by the tracker mortgage scandal and appeared before an Oireachtas Finance Committee on the matter.

Today, Bank of Ireland was hit with a record fine of over €100 million for its role in the tracker mortgage controversy.

But Kissane says today’s announcement will dredge up horrible memories for those most impacted.

“There will always remain a mark or a stain or a wound,” said Kissane.

“I had one family, every day they have to drive past the house that they did own, and traded down to another house.

“So they pass that memory everyday for as long as they live. Nothing and no process could ever undo that.”

Speaking to The Journal, Kissane said today’s report will “likely regurgitate a very sorry and sad and difficult period” for those who were affected.

“Every time they hear about Bank of Ireland and tracker, it comes up again and this is the same for other bank customers.

“They all have to go through the same turmoil because they were deeply affected.”

Court cases

Ray Flavin, from Co Kerry, was one of those caught up in the tracker mortgage scandal.

Bank of Ireland secured a possession order for the widowed father-of-five’s home in 2016 and he had to appeal against it, despite Bank of Ireland admitting it had been overcharging him on his tracker mortgage.

Flavin’s wife, Patricia, had “severe panic attacks” after a number of court hearings they went to and on 7 January, 2017, she suffered a heart attack and died.

In March of the same year, it emerged that the bank included almost eight acres of Flavin’s father’s land – which was not part of the mortgage – in the possession order, and the Circuit Court still granted it.

In a sitting of the High Court in March 2017, Edmund Honohan, Master of the High Court, noticed the discrepancy as he reviewed Flavin’s mortgage papers and the possession order.

“The Circuit Court shouldn’t have given an order for possession of the seven and three quarter acres because that’s not part of your house,” he told Flavin, who until that point had been representing himself in court.

Honohan accused the bank’s legal representatives of attempting to take “the whole enchilada”.

Ray was later represented by solicitor Gary Matthews, who said it was “a very long drawn out process through the courts”.

Speaking to The Journal, Matthews said that liability was never admitted or accepted.

He added that they ended up settling the case.

“The family was brought through a long legal process over many, many years to bring this to a successful conclusion,” said Matthews.

Ray Flavin told The Journal that he hasn’t been following the Bank of Ireland proceedings, but was “glad” they got the fine, adding: “I just think it’s fair because of the way everybody was overcharged.”

‘Perfect storm’

Kissane says the “economic circumstances that were in the country at the time, ironically caused a lot by the banking bailout, made it a perfect storm”.

He explained: “Suddenly we have increased taxes, USC, pension levies, and at the same time, unknown to an awful lot of people, they are being overcharged by the very same banks we bailed out. It was extraordinary in some regards.”

Thousands of customers were denied access to cheaper tracker mortgages and Kissane says it “took away joy”.

“It took away being able to go out for a bite to eat, or being able to do a kid’s birthday party or a family holiday.

“This may seem like superficial things, but they were particularly important because a lot of the people I dealt with had very young families.

“So they’re pinned to their collar all the time. But then add in some of the specific cases, of somebody who has a special needs child, it beggars belief that any money should be taken off them.”

An appeals process was put in place for those impacted, but few lodged appeals.

Kissane expressed concern that there are people who had “genuine reasons” for appeals but didn’t do so.

“Only about 10% of people impacted took appeals. How many people out there had genuine reasons for appeal, but were afraid or got a cheque and didn’t even want to ring the bank because their financial position was so precarious, they were afraid of lifting the lid any further.”

Today’s report noted “Bank of Ireland’s recklessness in its treatment of its customers”.

The report found that Bank of Ireland “failed to interpret its unclear contractual documents in customers’ best interests”. 

It also found that Bank of Ireland “repeatedly, over a period of over nine years, interpreted these unclear documents in its own favour and denied customers a tracker rate”.

“When you use the word ‘recklessness’ when it comes to a bank, you can imagine the carnage it could it cause,” said Kissane.

“It’s not the figure of the fine that jumped out to me, but the word ‘recklessness’.”

Kissane sounds a somewhat weary note when asked if such a scandal could happen again.

“Hopefully the culture has changed, and there are certainly enough safeguards in place now, I would think.

“Particularly with the level of the fine if it isn’t adhered, you would hope that it wouldn’t happen again. But in a banking world, you can never say never.”

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