February 10, 2017 / 9:08 AM / 3 years ago

Kaczynski tells Poland's Swiss franc borrowers to seek own redress

WARSAW, Feb 10 (Reuters) - Polish borrowers seeking compensation for being sold expensive Swiss franc-denominated mortgages should not expect the government to impose a settlement on the banks but take their individual claims to court instead, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the head of the ruling party, said on Friday.

In response shares in Polish lenders with significant Swiss-franc loans portfolio surged.

More than half a million Poles took out Swiss franc loans to benefit from low interest rates in Switzerland, but now face much bigger repayments because the Swiss currency has doubled in value against the zloty over the last few years.

Previously Kaczynski had said foreign currency-denominated mortgages must be converted into zlotys at the expense of the banks. Kaczynski holds no official government position but is seen by analysts as the most important decision-maker in Poland.

“I think they should take matters into their own hands and start fighting in the courts,” Kaczynski told public radio Jedynka on Friday on being asked whether Swiss franc borrowers should wait for the authorities to take action on their behalf.

“Not because of not trusting the president or the government, but because the president and the government are in a situation that is determined by economic circumstances,” he said.

Solving the problems faced by foreign currency mortgage borrowers was one of President Andrzej Duda’s and the Law and Justice (PiS) party promises during the election campaigns in 2015.

“The government cannot take action that would for example shake the banking system because this would affect all citizens terribly as well as those that took out loans in francs,” Kaczynski said on Friday.

“No government under any circumstances can do this,” he added.

Following his comments state-controlled PKO BP’s share price rose by 3 percent, while BZ WBK, majority owned by Spain’s Banco Santander, increased by 2.5 percent. Meanwhile mBank, which is controlled by Germany’s Commerzbank, rose by 6.5 percent.

Worries that the PiS could compel the banks to convert the loans into zlotys at old exchange rates at their expense contributed to sharp falls in the banks’ share prices last year.

But since then the government has softened its stance and earlier this year the Financial Stability Committee recommended that banks should put more capital aside if they hold foreign exchange-denominated mortgages, in an effort to get more of the loans converted to zlotys. (Reporting by Marcin Goettig; Editing by Greg Mahlich)

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