From his humble beginnings setting up a one-man law firm in Warsaw, Jacek Czabanski has become a crusader for Poland’s struggling mortgage holders, fighting a battle that stands to reshape the country’s powerful banking industry.
Since 2015, Czabanski has been busy building a case for several hundred mortgage holders who have sued their banks for what they say are unfair practices on foreign-currency loans. And what he says started as a general-interest occupation and initially looked like a moonshot has lately turned into a more realistic scenario. Banks are taking note.
“Four years ago, they were treating all the suits as a fantasy and weren’t paying too much attention,” Czabanski said. “Now they are afraid.”
A non-binding opinion by an adviser to the European Court of Justice in May said Polish courts can’t maintain abusive terms in foreign-currency loan agreements. That view has dramatically shifted the risk perception. The Polish Banking Association estimates the cost of a negative ruling at 60 billion zloty ($16 billion), or about four years of the industry’s profits. Banking stocks have come under pressure in recent weeks, as investors fret over the outcome of a final ruling expected from the Luxembourg-based court as soon as next month.