Will “naming and shaming” financial institutions make any difference to their behaviour?

Short answer, as I wrote about in detail back in 2010, Are Irish business so brazen that “naming and shaming” doesn’t matter any more?, is a big fat resounding no.

This topic has been around for a number of years now, and still the proposed “naming and shaming” powers have not been given to the Financial Services Ombudsman. The Ombudsman, Mr. Bill Prasifka was on the RTE “This Week” programme back in March when he reiterated a call for his office to be granted powers to release details of complaints against individual banks.

In the interview, Mr. Prasifka specifically said that:

Making the complaints record of individual banks public would influence how they behave.

Earlier this month in response to this call from Mr. Prasifka, it was reported by the Irish Examiner that he would soon get his wish. According to the article, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan will, on April 24th:

Bring forward an amendment at committee to provide the Financial Services Ombudsman with the power to name, in certain circumstances and subject to certain conditions, financial service providers about whom the FSO has upheld complaints.”

Never mind that the “certain circumstances” and the “certain conditions” will probably water down any proposals to a status of “let’s make it look like we’re doing something without actually doing anything”, I don’t believe, as I argued in 2010, that this will make any difference to how financial institutions will behave.

As I said back then, taking Allied Irish Banks (AIB) as a case in point:

Last week, I wrote about AIB admitting for the eighth time in 6 years that they’d stolen money from their customers. That’s them admitting to having unjustly taken nearly €34m from over 250,000 of their customers – an average of about €137.50 each. So why does AIB still have 4m customers when so many of them are being treated this badly?

Even with being named and shamed 8 times in 6 years for stealing money from their customers accounts (not to mention the balls they’ve made of their involvement in the property market in Ireland), they still have 4m customers.

How can that be? Do people never learn?

Why now then would any naming and shaming by a captured regulator in limited circumstances as allowed by a captured Minister for Finance make any further difference to consumer behaviour when having money directly stolen from their accounts isn’t?

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