I have very limited income from part-time employment plus widow’s pension. All of our savings were used up when I stopped working to take care of my late husband when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
My stepfather passed away last year and through my late husband I will inherit a substantial amount.
My lawyer knows my financial situation and suggested that I contact my bank for a term loan pending approval. The lawyer sent a letter outlining the amounts and time limits, etc. and guaranteeing the repayment of the loan and I had a face to face meeting with a bank advisor to probe the prospect without a formal request.
I was assured that they would call me in a few days. Weeks passed. My brothers-in-law approached with an offer to sell them my share of certain assets at a price well below market value “because they understood the financial pressure I had been under”. My lawyer told me later that one of the brothers-in-law had met him and told him that a bank official had spoken to the brother-in-law about my approach to lending on the basis of the inheritance.
Did the bank violate data security by disclosing details of the meeting I had with my branch to my brother-in-law, prompting their offer to buy me out?
Another bank official left a voicemail message about a week later to let me know he couldn’t help me then, but to get back to them when my financial situation improved.
Ms. LH, email
It is an absolute disgrace on so many fronts.
First of all, your relationship with your bank is personal and confidential. No bank manager has the right to discuss your banking arrangements or communications with anyone – even their own partner, let alone one of your own connections.
This is a blatant breach of trust. I advise you to make a formal complaint to the bank. I suggest, at least as a first step, that you do this through the bank’s data protection officer. This official is responsible for investigating all breaches of GDPR and customer data privacy. The contact details of this official should be available on the bank’s website, along with guidance on how the complaints procedure works and the applicable time limits.
As it turns out, I was able to identify the bank in this case and sent you the relevant contact details directly.
It is likely that the bank will come back seeking more information. As it stands now, from the bank’s point of view, they could argue that you are relying on third-party hearsay. The question then is whether your notary will formally record the content of the interview he had with your brother-in-law.
If so, and given the attorney’s status as a court officer, you would expect the bank to take the matter very seriously. Since I see no reason for your lawyer, who knows your position and your vulnerability, to tell a story, it seems to me that the bank has a very serious matter to answer.
As we talk about the bank and its approach to you, a few words about its very late response to your first approach.
You are, I understand, a long-time customer, which means the bank has to be very aware of your personal financial situation and the reason for it. This does not mean, of course, that they should give credit willy-nilly. They are forced to assess the risk – in large part because it is a newly rediscovered art for Irish lenders.
However, in this case, they are fully aware that you have a very important legacy awaiting you. For this, they have not only your word but that of your lawyer. I’m not aware of the wording of any money back guarantee given by the lawyer but, anyway, there was absolutely no call for the bank to answer, by voicemail no less. , with what I can only call a mock offer – come back to us when you no longer need us financially!
It is clear that your current situation makes a bank move problematic, but I would do it in principle once this legacy has been settled. It’s not that I think another Irish bank is necessarily exceptional, but this one clearly has no interest in you, your privacy or your business.
Which brings me to the third problem here – your step-brother’s approach with an offer to buy from you some of the assets under your step-father’s will at a staggering price.
To the most indulgent, it would be necessary to say that the timing of the approach is strange. In the context of a brother-in-law’s conversation with your lawyer, this is deeply suspicious.
I would expect your difficult financial situation due to your husband’s final illness to be well known to the family. If there had been any concerns about the financial pressure you were under as stated, I don’t understand why the approach would not have been made months earlier when your stepfather passed away.
And, in any case, given the “understanding” of your financial situation, why would the family refuse to offer it to you. It is clear from the limited details provided that this is a substantial estate and all beneficiaries will do very well. There is no financial requirement of anyone here to stick together.
It seems to me that your brothers-in-law are trying to pull a rapid at a time when they know you are vulnerable but relief is in sight because of this inheritance. This is, in my opinion, reprehensible. I don’t know what about Irish wills and families but all too often it really seems to bring out the worst in them.
As difficult as your position is, I advise you to hold on as you and your family have done so far on very limited incomes, confident in the knowledge that good fortune will come in time.
Please send questions to Dominic Coyle, Q&A, The Irish Times, 24-28 Tara Street, Dublin 2, or email [email protected] This column is a reading service and is not intended to replace professional advice. No personal correspondence will be exchanged.