Saturday 25 October 2014

Anglo: The New Tapes - Latest glimpse behind scenes of bust bank will make blood boil

Published 17/07/2014 | 02:30

'F*** that, I'll tell you what sharp is, sharp is 400 f***ing million of losses on a bond book that we didn't create."

In an ironic twist, David Drumm was more in favour of burning bank bondholders than the government of the day.

Drumm offers a fresh insight into the mindset of the management of Anglo Irish Bank just two months before the bank's disastrous share price meltdown in March 2008 – the infamous 'St Patrick's Day massacre'.

The figures being thrown around are getting increasingly enormous and the persecution complex is intensifying as the bank's financial situation becomes more precarious.

Drumm, the Anglo chief executive, and John Bowe, Anglo's head of capital markets, discuss the prospect of discreetly burning their own bondholders by buying back their own paper at a substantially discounted price and a major loss to the creditors.

Drumm dismisses Bowe's suggestions of a question of morality around the bank buying back its own bonds, a practice which would not have been undertaken by a healthy bank.

He quickly gets over that by admitting the bank can make a €200m profit by quietly buying back €500m worth of bonds.

"It's the morality of well we're not going to do it because it would be wrong of us to do it but that's the price, that's the offer price. So if they're offering it they haven't qualified: 'Well we'll f***ing sell it to anybody but the issue'. You know, you can get lost in that," he says.

And that's morality for you, Anglo style. The conversation at the start of January 2008 comes just two months before the bank's disastrous share price meltdown on St Patrick's Day.

'Anglo: The New Tapes' offers more dramatic revelations from inside Anglo Irish Bank.

The colourful language that has become synonymous with the executives at the bank emerges once again.

But the tapes go beyond mere expletives by affording another glimpse inside the surreal world of bankers in the dying days of the Celtic Tiger.

'The Anglo Tapes' shocked the nation last year, reverberated around the world, right up to German Chancellor Angela Merkel describing her "contempt" for the bank bosses after hearing tapes of Anglo executives singing a "comedy" version of wartime German anthem 'Deutschland Uber Alles'.

Again, this time around, prepare to be angered.

The flippant manner in which the fate of the bank is treated and the braggadocio displayed by the bank's top executives makes the blood boil.

But the tapes also provided the public with the most vivid insight into the heart of the toxic bank that bankrupted the country. A year on from the publication of the 'Anglo Tapes', the requirement for an effective banking inquiry is more prescient than ever.

The Government's 'Keystone Kops' handling of the establishment of the inquiry doesn't exactly engender any confidence in the appetite or ability of the Oireachtas to get to the bottom of the events that cost the taxpayer so much.

The inability to manage the basic enlisting of the membership of the committee and petty squabbling around its remit bodes ill of the outcome.

Given the short timeframe remaining to the next general election, the area the Oireachtas banking inquiry can cover is extremely limited. After complaining for so long about the previous government's failure to set up a transparent inquiry, Fine Gael and Labour have dragged their heels for long enough.

The Coalition's ability to survive the full term is being undermined by the fiscal pressures, which are a direct consequence of the banking collapse. Yet the desire to get to the bottom of the source of the problem and reassure the public of no repeat of the mistakes is not being demonstrated.

'Anglo: The New Tapes' also reiterates the need for Drumm to be brought home to account for his actions as chief executive of the bank that cost the taxpayer €33bn.

Drumm has effectively been in hiding in the US for the past five years and his refusal to co-operate with investigations on this side of the Atlantic is contemptible.

He is a central figure in providing an explanation of the management of the bank and its interaction with the regulatory authorities in the run up to its insurmountable difficulties, which resulted in the bank guarantee being required.

Unfortunately, the rest is history but the lessons have not yet been learned.

Irish Independent

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