Do you have a whistle to blow about banking in Ireland? Call in confidence – 0879199113 or email contact @ whistleblowersireland.com.
THE FINANCE union IBOA is to survey thousands of its members who work in the banking sector to find out the scale of their debts and how their banks are dealing with them.
The survey, which will be conducted by around the start of December, follows growing ‘anecdotal’ evidence heard by the union about bank staff falling into arrears with loans owed to their employers.
The Financial Regulator has received a number of complaints about AIB’s lending practices towards its own staff and about the way the bank is dealing with the growing issue of staff debt.
Last night, Whistleblowersireland.com was told that an anonymous AIB whistleblower has lodged complaints with both the regulator and the Department of Finance.
A string of serious allegations about the bank are now being investigated.
The allegations include a claim that staff have been allowed to have mortgages more than TWENTY times their salary.
One AIB staff member who spoke last night said they have debts owed to AIB of more than €500,000 on a salary of less than €35,000.
Another employee at the bank – which employs 12,000 staff – claims that more than 1,000 employees have mortgages of more than €1million.
And they dispute the official figure €1.8billion AIB gave earlier this year for the total amount of staff mortgages.
They said last night: ’It is astonishing that officially the average mortgage amount for each employee amounts to €150,000-a-head.
‘Given that most of the bank’s staff would be in their 20s and 30s, I can’t see too many of them having been able to get houses for €150,000 during the boom.
‘What you have to realise about AIB is that many of its staff don’t just have one mortgage, there are a lot of them who have multiple mortgages and not just with AIB.’
A staff member added: ‘There was a culture at AIB where you could pretty much borrow whatever you wanted.
‘I don’t know anybody at the bank among the people I would socialise with who don’t owe hundreds of thousands on properties that are no longer worth what they paid for.
‘And every one of those people is in trouble. ‘And why wouldn’t they be? Like me, they owe many, many times what they earn.’
They added: ‘As a member of staff, you were entitled to an almost automatic €20,000 loan, a gold VISA card, car loans, home improvement loans, overdrafts and of course, a mortgage.
‘And because of the way departments worked within the bank, you could get all this finance sorted at staff level, but then turn to your own local branch and get more money because they wouldn’t know what you’d received at staff level.’
An AIB spokesman said last night: ‘Staff are customers of the bank. ‘We wouldn’t comment on staff accounts in the same way that we wouldn’t comment on other customer accounts.
‘If staff are experiencing difficulties they are entitled to the same support as our customers.’
IBOA – the finance union – is aware there is potential problem and fear the few anecdotes they are starting to hear ‘may just be the tip of the ice berg’.
As a result, they are putting together a survey they are going to send to all their 22,000 members asking them how much they owe, whether or not they have problems with repayments and how their bank are dealing with the matter.
Questions will try to ascertain the size of member’s debt, the amount of arrears, the time they have been in difficulty and a look at how they have been treated by their banks.
A spokesman said last night: ‘We are hearing increasing stories from our members about the problems they are having with debts.
‘We are very concerned about some of the things we have heard and feel it’s now time to get a better assessment of the problem.’
Just weeks ago, the government appointed a team from accountancy firm Price Waterhouse Coopers to work along side AIB management.
This follows Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan’s announcement last week that the Government is going to be take a controlling stake in AIB as the Central Bank announced the beleaguered bank will need another €3 billion-plus.
The extra bail-out – needed to cover for higher-than-expected costs – could mean AIB will be facing nationalisation by the end of the year.
The €3.7 billion the government will be giving the bank is additional to the €3.5 billion its gave AIB last year.
One of the conditions for the extra cash was the resignation of AIB executive chairman Dan O’Connor and the termination of Colm Doherty‘s contract as managing director.
Do you have a whistle to blow about banking in Ireland? Call in confidence – 0879199113 or email contact @ whistleblowersireland.com