It was the Fianna Fail finance spokesperson Michael McGrath who re-ignited the whole bankers’ pay and perks controversy last October 2012 when, at an Oireachtas committee hearing, he quietly asked the CEO of AIB, David Duffy about the €1.1bn that had been shoveled into the AIB pension fund the previous August. There was outrage at the time when it emerged that the former CEO of AIB, Eugene Sheehy was in receipt of an annual pension of between €300-325,000.
We found out that people we hold as responsible for the banking collapse were not only escaping accountability, but having retired, they were directly benefitting financially from the state bailout which has been in part used to plug the giant hole in the AIB pension fund. At the time, the new AIB CEO, David Duffy said he would write to the former senior executives seeking a waiver.
We still await the publication of the Mercer expert report on bank pay and perks; this is the report which was commissioned last June 2012 and about which Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan said this week, was still being prepared – it’s now been eight months since the €120,000 report was commissioned, and it is constantly used by Minister Noonan to stonewall questions. Minister Noonan has a stock response to banking pay questions and that is “the further more detailed information sought in this question is not available to my Department at the present time and the compilation of this information, particularly the historic element, is likely to delay completion of the Mercer Remuneration Report which is a Government priority”
Well, yesterday, Minister Noonan didn’t use the stock Mercer report as a shield when quizzed by Deputy McGrath about the overall numbers of former AIB bankers who have been written to, by the AIB CEO seeking waivers because their pensions are so obscenely grand when set against the disastrous financial calamity that befell AIB, and which resulted in a bailout of €20bn from the taxpayer. No, Minister Noonan just claimed it was all confidential, and even providing anonymised totals would breach confidentiality duties. And in a new stonewalling technique, Minister Noonan came up with the following form of words “Given this is an on-going complicated process from a tax, legal and Revenue perspective the Bank is not in a position to confirm the levels of reductions achieved to date.”
You might recall that on 7th November 2012, AIB confirmed that it was writing to about 15 former senior executives seeking a waiver of their bumper pensions. We know that former CEO Eugene Sheehy agreed a waiver of between €50-75,000 to bring his annual pension down to €250,000. Are we to deduce from Minister Noonan’s response that the response from the senior executives to the request for a waiver was so bad, that it would be embarrassing to provide totals?
This is the full parliamentary question and response.
Deputy Michael McGrath: To ask the Minister for Finance the number of retired executives of AIB including EBS that have been written to by the bank asking that they consider voluntarily forgoing a portion of their pension; the number that responded positively, negatively, or not at all; the number of the retired executives that have since actually foregone some of their pension entitlement and the overall value of the pensions entitlements that have been foregone by retired executives of the bank.
Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan: The Deputy will be aware that AIB has previously confirmed that it has written to former senior executives of both AIB and EBS Limited requesting a voluntary reduction in their pension levels.
The Bank has informed me that is not disclosing the names of these individuals on confidentiality grounds, but that it has to date issued in excess of thirty letters. AIB is not in a position to release information on former employees without the express consent of the individuals.
Given this is an on-going complicated process from a tax, legal and Revenue perspective the Bank is not in a position to confirm the levels of reductions achieved to date.