Government Must Regulate Funds to Protect Borrowers

IFA Farm Business Chairman Martin Stapleton has reiterated IFA’s call on Government and the Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohoe that funds which purchase loans must be regulated.

The IFA principles for engagement with vulture funds, launched last year, set out a number of policy proposals on this issue, including a call for the regulation of funds buying Irish loans.

Martin Stapleton said, “Farmer borrowers feel that they have no protection in their dealings with vulture funds. It is simply appalling that farmers who give security to long-standing financial institutions can find that security has been sold to unregulated and faceless entities”.

He said it is unacceptable that those buying loans would not be vetted or regulated, “If a loan is being sold, there is no way to predict who is going to end up owning it, which leaves borrowers in a very precarious position.

“The Government must ensure that robust regulation is put in place and that this applies to funds that have already bought loans. In the interim, no sale of loans should go ahead until regulations are put in place,” he said.

Martin Stapleton said IFA is seeking a Government commitment to rebalance the power between borrowers and loan owners, “IFA is clear that, as a core principle in negotiations, there should be no forced sale of the family farm, where the farmer has meaningfully engaged to find a solution.”

IFA believes that loan owners must always offer farmers the option of paying their debt over an extended period in accordance with the farm’s repayment capacity.

IFA operates a service for farmers who are having debt difficulties. Farmers can phone a confidential helpline at 1890 924 853 to seek the IFA’s help.

The key principles the Association applies in dealing with vulture funds in support of farmers with credit difficulties are:

  • No forced sale of farming assets, which undermines the viability of the family farm, and where the farmer has meaningfully engaged to find a workable solution.
  • Full and final agreement must be reached between the borrower and loan owner prior to the disposal of any assets.
  • Assets must be sold for their full market value and with proper advertising.
  • No forced collection of debt that is not yet due.
  • Where delays in arriving at a decision are due to the loan owner’s actions, there can be no interest or penalty accumulated on the outstanding debt in that time period.

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