Devil in the detail in debt write downs

(this article appeared in the Sunday Business Post on the 23rd of March)

The banks are starting to write down debt. Should we be surprised? Recent news of large write downs on home loans by AIB has left out some of the necessary detail to add context to the story. The lender has equally shied away from confirmation of what happened, making it all a bit opaque.

Why would a bank choose to offer a capital reduction by writing off part of a mortgage? An alternative is to split the loan into a part which the customer can afford to pay and another part which is ”warehoused. If zero interest is charged on the warehoused part, then the affordability for the customer can be the same as if this part is written down, even if the psychological impact is different.

It is likely that there are peculiarities in the cases where debt has been written down, which means this will only happen in the minority of cases. For example, if a loan was on a one off house with a …

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