On July 13th last I wrote about the many excuses given by the Financial Services Ombudsman, Joe Meade, to avoid identifying the greedy vultures that infest the Irish financial sector. Joe added one more excuse today on RTEs News at One (5th item).
The latest case involved an 86 year old farmer. The man had just sold his farm for €1.4 million and was advised by his bank to invest in two long term insurance bonds. The capital was guaranteed provided they were kept in for four and six years.
The man died seven months later by which time the bonds had dropped by €50,000. Joe told the bank that it was inappropriate to sell these bonds and directed that the €50,000 be refunded.
Hilariously, Joe appealed to the banks to look into their hearts and review all accounts to see if they are appropriate.
When asked why he won’t name the low life bank, Joe said he didn’t have legal coverage.
Let’s remind ourselves of the extensive legal powers that Joe does have. He has the power of entry and seizure, he can require employees to provide information under oath, he can enter premises and demand documents and the High Court is the only external party that can overturn his decisions – but yet, according to Joe, he doesn’t have the simple legal power to name the vultures. The obvious question is – Was this a deliberate omission when the legislation was being drawn up?
Bizarrely, Joe justified his stance by reference to a recent High Court decision that went against him on a matter completely unrelated to the ripping off of the elderly.
So what hope does Joe offer the many vulnerable customers out there that his office is allegedly protecting?
Well, he wants to start a public debate on the matter. Just think about that suggestion, a public debate on whether the financial vultures that prey on the elderly should be named and shamed.
Joe then suggests that perhaps the Minister for Finance and the Dail could pass legislation on the matter. Let’s see; public debate and then action by a Government minister and the Dail, give it about ten maybe fifteen years. Meanwhile, the greedy vultures continue to enjoy the great benefits of state protection.
The reality is that, from a consumer point of view, the Financial Services Ombudsman is a useless organisation. It operates on the same basis as the equally useless Financial Regulator.
When the financial vultures are caught picking over the bones of a customer’s account they are merely required to pay back their ill gotten gains. No police, no fines, no names.