Updated: 02/12/16 : 05:38:27
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Ulster Bank may have cost families their homes says CEO

The chief executive of Ulster Bank has said that 14 or 15 mortgage holders may have lost their homes after being incorrectly removed from low interest rate tracker loans by the bank.

However, Gerry Mallon said the bank had not yet concluded if the loss of the home was as a direct result of the incorrect rate being charged or if it was a consequence of something else.

RTÉ reports that addressing the Oireachtas Finance Committee, he said the bank had 200 staff working through the mortgage book to determine the exact number of mortgage holders affected.

Media speculation that about 2,000 mortgage holders had been affected by the bank's failure to uphold contractual obligations was in the "right ballpark", he said.

He said the bank would start the process of writing to affected individuals this month.

However, he said it would be into next year before Ulster Bank would know the exact number of people affected and the full extent of the overcharging issue.

The bank's CEO was being questioned by Sinn Féin Finance Spokesman Pearse Doherty, who described the overcharging as "industry theft".

Mr Mallon repeated his apology to the customers affected.

He also said that Brexit has increased the "strategic value" of the bank within the portfolio of its parent bank, RBS.

The committee heard that the vote by Britain to leave the EU had cast question marks over the issue of passporting of banking capability across European borders.

"RBS now needs to think about its options should passporting rights be lost," Mr Mallon said.

He explained that RBS had a number of licences in Europe that it could rely on in Ireland, Germany and the Netherlands.

"We are a key and real part of those strategic options that exist."

He said there was no question over RBS's long-term commitment to the Irish market.

Meanwhile, Ulster Bank has also revealed that around 100 businesses of the 2,141 that were place in its Global Restructuring Group have emerged successfully from the process.

Under questioning from Sinn Fein's Pearse Doherty, the bank's head of problem loans said he believed the number of businesses to have survived the process was 'of the order' of 100. 

Mr Doherty said businesses were under the impression that they were going into the unit to be supported and not put on 'death row.'

He described it as a vehicle for Ulster Bank to appoint receivers.

Mr Doherty said the figures were out of line with other financial institutions.

Andrew Blair denied that the role of the GRG was to distress companies and he did not accept the claims of a whistleblower three years ago that the role of the CRG Ireland group was about putting businesses to the wall. 

He said the role of the unit was to restore businesses to financial health and to keep businesses viable as it was the best outcome for all.