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Critical media coverage of the issues concerning our debt collection system

The case about the issues in our debt collection system is deeply regrettable, and we are making every effort to correct the errors and compensate affected customers. The current media coverage repeats a number of accusations against Danske Bank and Danske Bank’s management. Here is our response.

First of all, we apologise for the actions taken and the decisions made in the past and for the consequences these have had for affected customers. It is deeply regrettable that no one listened to the employees and business partners who raised the issues internally, and that management failed to support the employees when they voiced their concerns. So we also owe an unreserved apology to the employees who were not heard.

Unfortunately, we cannot undo past mistakes, and we cannot guarantee that new mistakes will not occur, but we can and will ensure that all the issues that may arise are dealt with as quickly as possible.

What the case is about
In 2004, we introduced a new system to process debt collection cases. This resulted in a range of errors, which meant that we in some cases collected debt that was time-barred, or in some cases collected more debt than the customer owed. We have, since the current top management became aware of the problems, worked to correct the errors, review the cases and compensate the customers fully. We are reviewing all customer cases in our debt collection system. Out of those, 108,000 customer cases are at risk of over-collection and we expect that 10,000-15,000 customers are to be compensated. 

Read more about the errors in the debt collection system here and what you as a customer should do.

Criticism raised in the media

In a series of articles and news reports, the media is currently raising points of criticism and making accusations against Danske Bank and Danske Bank’s management.

Among other things, Danske Bank is criticised for having known about the issues in the debt collection department for years, for having ignored warnings about the scale of the issues and for having attempted to keep the case secret from the public. 

We would like to respond to these accusations here.

As mentioned earlier, the errors should never have occurred, and we deeply regret that they happened at all. Danske Bank has never claimed to be unaware of the issues. On the contrary, we have stated very clearly that the problem is precisely that no action was taken even though the issues were known at various levels in the organisation over the years. We have also acknowledged that we should have responded to that knowledge and done something to correct the errors at a much earlier stage. 

The current executive leadership team of Danske Bank became aware of the issues in May 2019. Since then, we have been making every effort to clean up and compensate affected customers. We have updated the authorities about the case and communicated with affected customers on an ongoing basis in step with acquiring the knowledge required to provide correct information. We should of course have informed affected customers at an earlier stage, but we absolutely have not deliberately attempted to keep the errors secret. 

The case is complex and began many years ago. In step with investigating the issues, we have gained new knowledge about the scale of the issues and found related issues that also have to be solved. If we had known what we now know about the scale of the case, there are a number of things that we could have done better and faster. That does not, however, change the fact that we are, and have always been, determined to correct all errors and compensate all affected customers. 

We still focus on cleaning up and ensuring that all customers who may have suffered a loss as a result of our errors are fully compensated. We cannot rule out the possibility that new issues will emerge as we work our way through the case, but we can guarantee that they will be dealt with if that happens.

Here, you can read more about Danske Bank’s explanatory account of 11 September to the Danish Financial Supervisory Authority regarding the errors in the debt collection systems.

Read our response to specific criticism in the media in the Q&A below. 

Danske Bank receives order from the DFSA in debt case
The DFSA has on 26 November 2020 ordered Danske Bank to ensure that an impartial investigation of the remediation measures in the debt collection case is conducted. We welcome the order, and fully agree with the Danish FSA that it is absolutely essential that we can be sure that the steps we take to clean up this matter have the desired effect. It is a complex matter, and we therefore welcome the FSA's decision that we should hire an external partner with the right expertise to review the steps we have and will take. Our clear focus has always been to examine the matter thoroughly, correct the errors and compensate all affected customers. Danske Bank received four other orders in the matter from the Danish FSA in September. Find more information here. 

Q&A

  • Is it true that Danske Bank knew that there were data errors in the debt collection system for years without doing anything about it?
    As we have previously said and reported to the authorities, there were - prior to the current executive leadership team becoming aware of the issues in May 2019 - a number of warnings given by employees about problems and errors relating to debt collection over the years. Nothing was done at the time, even though there was awareness of the issues at various levels of the organisation. This also applies to tax reporting and the part of debt collection that Danske Bank has outsourced to collection agencies. Unfortunately, this has had a negative impact on some customers, and we offer our sincere apologies for that. It should not have happened, and we apologise to both customers and employees for not taking action at an earlier stage. 
  • Why did the former management not do something about the problem?
    It is very regrettable of course that nothing was done, although there was awareness of the issues at various levels of the organisation over the years. Unfortunately, we cannot undo mistakes that were made in the past and not handled properly. But we can – and that is what we are doing – make sure we investigate the issues thoroughly, correct the mistakes and fully compensate our customers.
  • What is Danske Bank’s view of the fact that former employees are saying that they voiced their concerns regarding debt collection for years but that no action was ever taken to remedy the issues?
    Of course it is also deeply regrettable that the employees who raised the issues were not heard as they should have been. Management failed for many years to support employees who voiced their concerns. That should never happen and must not happen again. So we owe the employees who were only trying to do their job but were not heard an unreserved apology.
  • Why has Danske Bank stated that no one knew about the problems?
    Danske Bank has never claimed to be unaware of the issues. On the contrary, we have stated very clearly that the problem is precisely that no action was taken even though the issues wereknown at various levels in the organisation over the years. Real action was taken only when the current executive leadership team became aware of the issues in May 2019 and the clean-up process started. Several of the documents that the media have been able to access were created in connection with that clean-up.
  • Has Danske Bank and Danske Bank’s current management attempted to keep the issues regarding the debt collection system secret?

    Danske Bank never wanted to keep the debt collection issue a secret. We have, on the contrary, informed the relevant authorities on an ongoing basis and informed our customers. We knew from the start that we would send out letters to thousands of customers, and we started that process before the media took an interest in the matter, and we also described the issue on our website. Our focus was to ensure that the affected customers heard about the issue directly from us and not through the media. That is why we have focused on getting to the bottom of the issue, so we could give our customers accurate information and compensate them, which we are doing. We would have liked to have done this much faster, but that does not change the fact that it was and still is our focus.

  • What is the email mentioned by the media in Thursday morning’s coverage of the debt collection case about? 
    The impression given of the contents of an internal email from November 2019 is wrong and misleading. The email was about something completely else, namely the fact that the bank was considering opting out of a scheme for international joint taxation. That decision had to be made by the Board of Directors, obviously. That is what the email was about. 

    At that point in time, Danske Bank was in the process of getting an overview of the debt collection case and therefore not at all ready to communicate with affected customers. But we were of the opinion that we already then should make a provision in our accounts to cover cleaning up and paying future compensation to affected customers. That was the proper thing to do. And that is what the email said. We are and always have been focused on cleaning up and compensating affected customers.

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