Dear John McGuinness, Chairman
I listened with great interest to last week’s Oireachtas Finance Committee where you, as Chairman, asked Ger Deering (the Outgoing Ombudsman for Financial Services) his view on culture in the Public Service and that you believed there was a culture issue within the Civil and Public Services. You went on to list many individuals that you felt had been abandoned by the Public Service.
I have, since the start of 2021, attempted to appear before your Committee about an issue that affects thousands of individuals in this country. Thousands that I believe have been abandoned by the State and suffer in silence. They are individuals that were mis-sold mortgages prior to 2008 and now live in fear of the future. These individuals can only obtain justice through the services of the Financial and Pensions Ombudsman as mis-conduct by banks cannot be tried in the normal court system and the Ombudsman was set up for this purpose.
I have made the case that the Financial Services Ombudsman has been preventing a significant number of complaints to proceed to investigation. Many are rejected as the Office of the FSPO deems them as out of time. The banks, the subject of the complaints, have not raised any objection that the complaint is out of time and Mr Deering’s Office has made this determination on his own initiative. It contrasts with the situation and position held by some banks over the tracker mortgages. To understand the scale of the matter, in 2020, Mr Deering rejected c. 2,000 out of 6,000 complaints that his Office “Closed”.
I have submitted many papers to the Committee and also sought help from opposition parties to get in front of the Committee. The clients who I currently assist with their complaints have also submitted pleas to their local TD(s) and the answers that come back are similar and drafted by the appropriate Civil Servants. Thousands of people struggling with their inappropriate mortgages, with a fear for their future or who have already lost their homes, are being denied their only channel to justice and Mr Ger Deering is ignoring them due to the irrational interpretation of banking matters made by legal staff in his organisation. However, he is seen as doing a great job and is wished well in his new role. I believe he is part of the problem by limiting complaints and protecting the banks from their past behaviour.
In effect, I am a whistle blower in that I am an experienced banker who was working overseas when this misconduct was carried out and can see it for what it was. As part of other work with the (advocacy) group “Right(2)Homes,” I came across thousands of these mis-sold mortgages.
The legislator had the foresight in 2017 to amend the FSPO Act to allow the Ombudsman to investigate past misconduct by the banks if the consumer complained within 3 years of becoming aware of the misconduct. Mr Deering continually holds the position that the consumer should have known of the misconduct when they signed the loan documents – that is an irrational interpretation as consumers have no banking knowledge of what conduct is expected within the banks and conduct driven by regulatory guidelines, consumer protection codes and good credit policies.
You listed 16 people ignored by the State over the last 10 years. I implore you now to allow me to put the case for the thousands of our citizens who continue to struggle with potential homelessness or the fear of becoming homeless. Many have had their loans sold to overseas investors who now seek the highest possible return and unjust enrichment on their investments.