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Central Bank (Amendment) Bill 2018: Second Stage [Private Members] (Continued)

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 965 No. 5

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe] As the Minister of State said, Deputy Pearse Doherty's Bill will be taken into account in that process but, as I outlined, there are a number of areas of concern in the proposed amendments that will require further examination and consideration. The Government, in agreeing with the spirit of the Bill, will not oppose it on the basis that it will continue towards ensuring that any changes to the legislation governing the Central Bank's powers are well reasoned and robust enough to withstand challenge. I thank the Deputies opposite for bringing this forward. It was a robust and interesting debate and we do not oppose the spirit of the Bill. We believe there are further changes that can be made to it.

Deputy Denise Mitchell: Information on Denise Mitchell Zoom on Denise Mitchell I welcome the Bill and I am delighted to see it before the House. Everybody recognises the importance of having in place tough legislation to deal with white-collar criminals. We see it too often. There is a huge gulf between the attitude of the State to criminals, such as thieves, and its attitude to those involved in white-collar crime. This attitude stems from a belief that white-collar crime has a less serious impact on victims. Tell that to the 33,000 families who have had their money stolen from them by the banks in the tracker mortgage scandal. These people suffered. It was not just a small increase in repayments on their homes. Many of these people saw their repayments reach such a level that they had to put their entire lives on hold. Many could not afford to put food on their tables. They were stretched to their limits. Imagine the huge stress this brought on them. Up to 100 of these families lost their homes as a result of what the banks did yet not a single person will be held criminally accountable for this disgraceful behaviour. It is about time bankers who blatantly lie to the Central Bank are held to account. It is totally outrageous. It makes my blood boil that many of these people are on enormous salaries and are working for institutions that are being bankrolled by the taxpayer, yet they have the sheer cheek to lie to the Central Bank. It is time to get tough with them once and for all and hopefully they will think twice about ever doing this again.

Deputy Dessie Ellis: Information on Dessie Ellis Zoom on Dessie Ellis In what other area of life could an institution deliberately mislead its customers or clients? In what area could it calculatingly and deliberately mislead those whom it promised to offer the best possible and friendliest service, a service it promised would be a reliable one in which the product offered would be the best one suited to their requirements? As in the scandals in insurance and tracker mortgages, the statements and promises seem to have been built on sand. In addition, the banks that are directly to blame for the tracker mortgage scandals are metaphorically sending in the heavies when dealing with innocent clients they effectively scammed. Instead of showing shame and contrition they are strong-arming families. They are doing everything possible to prevent tracker mortgage holders getting proper redress and compensation. Through their lies and scams the banks have destroyed lives, families and communities. If the lies and scams of a person from Ballymun, Glasnevin, Finglas, Santry or Whitehall caused families to lose their homes, they would be down on them like a tonne of bricks. If someone from one of those areas blatantly stole money in the same arrogant and contemptuous way the banks did from their customers, they would soon find themselves before the courts being held accountable for their actions. It is no wonder the bankers display such arrogance and contempt for their clients and the Central Bank. They are not answerable for their actions. There is no sanction against the lies and the scams. This legislation will wipe the smiles form their faces. It will make them accountable for their actions, like any other citizen. It will right an anomaly that has allowed banks to feel invincible before the law. It will make bankers equal before the law just like any other citizen who engages in criminal actions. The message must be clear that white-collar crime does not pay and will be vigorously pursued like any other crime. No one is above the law.

Deputy Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty Gabhaim mo bhuíochas d'achan duine a thug páirt sa díospóireacht inniu agus a léirigh tacaíocht don Bhille. Ní labhair aon duine inniu nach raibh sásta tacaíocht a thabhairt don Bhille agus tá mé iontach buíoch as an méid daoine a labhair agus a phléigh go mion an t-ábhar atá idir lámha againn inniu.

  I welcome the contributions from all sides of the House. There is support from all sides of the House for the legislation. The Minister of State and the Government have qualified their support. They say they support the Bill in principle but they really do not want to see this legislation go any further because they talk about a more holistic approach. I have said there is a need for a suite of laws to be brought in. I accept this is part of the solution; it is not the total solution but it does not mean it is not worthwhile. I am determined to pursue this legislation through Committee and Report Stages and through the Seanad, as I did when we lifted the six-year rule in the legislation I drafted, in order that it will make a real difference to people's lives. We must move ahead with this Bill. Delay is not acceptable while thousands are being ripped off every day and bankers act with impunity. I do not have confidence that the Government will take the issue seriously. It talks about its seriousness and that it is considering two reports, one from the Central Bank and one from the Law Reform Commission. It is not serious about this issue and it cannot convince the House that it is.

  The then Governor wrote on 18 August 2015 and told the Minister straight-up what was required. I will say exactly what he required. There was a lot of nitpicking at the legislation. I thank the parliamentary legal division for the support we got in drafting the legislation. The then Governor said in the last paragraph:

We propose that a general offending provision be implemented whereby across all regulated financial service sectors, not just insurance, senior personnel, directors and key office-holders, including the external auditor might be guilty of an offence where false and misleading information is provided to the Central Bank by a regulated entity which they represent where they knew or ought to have known that the information was false or misleading. In addition, this provision should be designated as a prescribed contravention pursuant to Part IIIC of the Central Bank Act 1942, as amended, so that there is a range of administrative sanctions available. In order to ensure the latter there needs to be made available administrative sanctions capable of being imposed on individuals for their actions. At the moment, a limitation exists whereby the contravention has to have been committed by the regulated entity. This structure effectively allows individuals to act without responsibility for their actions of lying or misleading.

That was a plea from the then Governor of the Central Bank in 2015 and we are asked to believe the Government is taking the issue seriously. We heard from the Minister when we previously raised this question that it considered it a number of times but it did diddly-squat about it. It is still not an offence to lie through one's teeth to the Central Bank, which is usually done, as the then Governor said, to cover up something else within the institution unless there was a specific request made for the information from the Central Bank. That is where the Minister and the Government are completely wrong.

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