AIB chiefs have insisted that the bank does not cut “special deals for special individuals” when it is considering debt write-downs.
The bank stated that between 2015 and 2021, it wrote off debt worth €3.5bn.
Representatives appeared in front of TDs and Senators at the Oireachtas Finance Committee on Thursday following reports that former Kilkenny hurler DJ Carey received an alleged settlement resulting in a €9.5 million debt being written down to €60,000 (a 99.3 per cent reduction).
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In his opening statement, Jim O’Keeffe, Managing Director of Retail Banking with AIB, said that the bank was “not permitted under law with respect to customer confidentiality to reveal or discuss details of any particular account or customer transaction".
He confirmed that 1,900 customers had over 90% of their debt written off or written down.
However, he could not disclose how many of these customers had debt of over €1m written off. Mr O’Keeffe stated that this information was commercially sensitive but that he would consider whether this information could be given to the committee at a future date.
In response to Sinn Féin’s finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty, Mr O’Keeffe denied that “special deals” are cut for some individuals as he insisted that all customers are treated equally.
He said: “We acknowledge completely that the commentary in the last period of time has caused a lot of upset for customers and for the wider public.
“In the same way as you reference people contacting you, people have contacted us as well who we've worked with over the years in good faith. It has caused a lot of heartbreak.
“We deal with every case consistently and fairly.
“I can categorically tell you, there are no special deals for special individuals coming to AIB.
“I do apologise to our customers who have been put through that torture over the past week to 10 days where they have been made feel they have been subjected to something that doesn't happen for a wider group.
“I can assure that is not the case.”
Mr O’Keeffe said that in order to receive a debt write-down, a customer must “demonstrate a willingness to meet their contractual obligations while maintaining a reasonable and benchmarked lifestyle".
He later confirmed that this lifestyle is the same for all customers.
People Before Profit’s Mick Barry, meanwhile, said that it seemed like there was “one rule for people who are rich and famous and another rule for the rest of us”.
“If you owe €5,000 and you can’t pay it back, you have a problem, If you owe €5m and you can’t pay it back, it is the bank that has the problem,” he quipped.
Mr O’Keeffe also denied that there was “bias” towards wanting to help “preferred individuals”.
He told Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín that the bank’s main aim was to “protect families and homes”. AIB also confirmed that there are a number of check in place in the bank to ensure that
He later confirmed to Fine Gael’s Bernard Durkan that since 2017, eight homes have been repossessed, while 300 have been through the bank’s “mortgage to rent” process.
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