Updated at 8.5opm
PERMANENT TSB HAS released a statement defending it’s plan to sell off a €3.7 billion book of non-performing loans known as Project Glas.
The proposed sell-off of 18,000 properties, including 14,000 private dwelling homes, has become the subject of a political battle in recent days, and was raised several times today in Leaders’ Questions.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told the Dáil earlier that Permanent TSB, which is 75% owned by the state, had not yet found a buyer.
Fianna Fáil has sought to challenge the government on the issue, and has launched a bid to block the planned PTSB sale.
Party leader Micheál Martin told the Taoiseach the bank was “outsourcing its dirty work” and said a message must be sent by the government that it would not countenance such behaviour.
“The government very much stands by families,” the Taoiseach said.
He said it would be illegal for the government to instruct the bank on the issue of the sale, but said as the State is a majority shareholder, the bank must consult with the finance minister – something Varadkar said the bank is yet to do.
The Taoiseach said the government was open to considering whether further protections and regulations are needed.
In its statement this evening Permanent TSB said that around €2 billion worth of the loans it planned to sell on were comprised of private dwelling home loans.
It said the loans were “typically owned by customers who have not engaged with the bank, whose mortgages are unsustainable or who have been unable to meet the terms of various treatments put in place”.
Of this portion of Project Glas, some account holders have not engaged with the Bank for over 7 years and on average the loans are over 3.5 years in arrears.
Many have made no payments at all for years.
TheJournal.ie asked Permanent TSB’s spokesperson whether the bank could provide a further breakdown on how many customers had not engaged in over seven years. They said that no further information was available this evening.
The statement said the sale of non-performing loans to third parties was common in the UK and other European countries.
“In the UK there are a number of examples since the current crisis began of the UK Government disposing of homeloans to third party funds.”
Legacy of the crisis
In a section of its statement titled ‘After Ten Years’ PTSB set out why it believed it should be allowed move ahead with the sell off, describing non-performing loans as “are one of the last significant legacy issues of the financial crisis”.
“All stakeholders have worked extremely hard over almost a decade to minimise the number of loans that are not performing and to give customers the space and time to try to resolve their issues themselves.
“However, we are now almost ten years on from the start of the crisis. A new generation of home buyers needs to be able to engage with healthy, competitive banks who can finance and purchase homes and, the banks themselves need to ensure that they are strong, profitable and capable of withstanding potential future shocks.
“Given all this, and the existence of appropriate consumer protection regulation of the interaction with customers by any acquirer, the Bank believes that now is an appropriate time to implement measures that are considered part of normal banking practice in the UK and other European countries.
These include allowing third parties to work out these non-performing loans and allowing banks to use their resources to concentrate on providing new loans to home buyers and businesses who need access to credit.
Michael McGrath, the Fianna Fáil finance spokesman, had made a “strong case” for further protections for mortgage holders, the Taoiseach said earlier today, adding that he had asked Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe to work with McGrath on the issue.
Speaking to reporters earlier, McGrath said all mortgage-holders should have the same protections.
“Do you think vulture funds really have an interest in working out a loan book over 15 to 20 years?
They absolutely do not. They are here for the quick buck and we know what they will do – they will move on them [mortgage-holders] at the first opportunity, particularly as house prices continue to rise.
These are not just names on a list, they are families, some of them are in a difficult position.
Many have engaged with the bank, they have agreed to restructure loans, they have agreed to split mortgages, they are fully meeting the terms of their loan, yet they find themselves in a non-performing loan bundle – why is that?
He added that the legislation his party is proposing must be a priority.
In the Dáil, Micheál Martin raised concerns that any legislation introduced would need to be fast-tracked and allowed through all stages in a speedy manner.
“We have time,” Varadkar responded.
Varadkar said he understood that mortgage holders did not need further stress, adding that the government would give “open and constructive” consideration to further protections.
- With reporting by Daragh Brophy