Belfast Telegraph

Bank boss owns up to mistake over 100% mortgages

By Ailish O'Hora

Bank of Ireland's chief executive Richie Boucher has told the Republic's banking inquiry that controversial 100% mortgages given out during the run-up to the collapse of the banking sector were wrong.

Mr Boucher, who joined the bank in 2003 and became chief executive in 2009, said that "100% mortgages were wrong".

"I could have stopped it," Mr Boucher told the Oireachtas inquiry, which is probing the causes of the 2008 collapse of the Irish banks.

Mortgages covering the entirety of the value of a house were also a common feature of the housing boom in Northern Ireland.

Mr Boucher also admitted "it was a mistake" to write in support of a planning application for a customer in the past.

He added that the bank knew in the months leading up to the bank guarantee that Bank of Ireland could need help, given the state of international banking and economic circumstances. It was ultimately partly bailed out, resulting in 15% of it being taxpayer-owned.

Mr Boucher said Bank of Ireland was well capitalised in 2008 but was not "sufficiently capitalised for a storm that could come or to pursue the business model".

Speaking about the night of the bank guarantee, he disagreed with earlier testimonies from AIB bankers when he said he was aware of a 'systemic' guarantee on the night which would have included Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide.

AIB executives spoke of a "four bank" guarantee last week.

Bank of Ireland did not need a guarantee but "did not appear to have any real choice in the matter" and had to become part of it, Mr Boucher said.

Mr Boucher said on the night of September 29, 2008 his bank did not need a guarantee but during the course of the negotiations "it became apparent" they would have to apply to join in.

Solicitor Brian O'Donnell, who recently had to hand the keys of his Gorse Hill home in Killiney, back to Bank of Ireland, attended yesterday's hearing where he sat in the public gallery.

Mr O'Donnell recently confronted Mr Boucher at the bank's AGM in Dublin where he lobbed a keyring labelled "The Bloody Keys" on to the table in front of the bank chief executive.

Mr Boucher told the hearing that his bank board "made strategic mistakes and errors of judgment and I bear collective responsibility for these and my contribution to them".

He said, however, that these errors were "similar in some or all respects to those made by virtually all banks operating in Ireland" during that period.

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