Kissane faces an uphill battle, but only the foolish would bet against him

Adviser whose work exposed tracker mortgage scandal has now turned his attention to the losses of Belfry funds’ Irish investors

It can be tempting at times to think of Padraic Kissane as a Don Quixote, tilting at windmills, but the financial adviser’s record in forcing Ireland’s banks to face up to their role in the tracker mortgages scandal, which ultimately cost the sector more than €1 billion in refunds, compensation and regulatory fines, demands respect.

This is why Colin Hunt and his colleagues in AIB’s executive suite will be paying close attention to his latest campaign — an effort to secure refunds for hundreds of investors who lost a minimum of €80,000 each in ill-fated property investments promoted by the Irish bank.

The bank, says Kissane, targeted customers with substantial amounts of cash on deposit to invest in very high-risk geared property funds in the early noughties. By definition, he says, people putting their money in bank deposits would not be those with an appetite for high-risk investments.

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Geared funds borrow alongside investors, increasing the risk profile, with those borrowings backed by covenants to ensure the lenders get repaid while investors get wiped out if the value of the funds dips below the scale of their borrowings. The first of these, Belfry funds, made money but the other five didn’t, costing Irish investors north of €200 million.

Kissane says between 500 and 900 investors remain out of pocket. AIB says otherwise. While they won’t give figures, saying only that each case has been examined on its merits, it is understood that about 70 per cent of the 2,500 people whose investments in the Belfry funds were wiped out have received some form of refund.

Kissane’s track record is persuasive but he will have his work cut out on this occasion. First, given the minimum €80,000 investment, the investors here might be viewed less sympathetically than struggling homeowners on tracker mortgages. The battle for compensation has also been going on for more than a decade with the final deadline for appeals passing earlier this year.

There is no legal or ombudsman route open to Kissane, given the timelines, so his only weapon is the power of persuasion and the threat of reputational damage for an Irish bank looking to close the door firmly on some of the excesses of the Celtic Tiger years. The odds are against him but the tracker scandal shows it would be reckless to bet against him delivering some return for those Belfry shareholders.

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