Business Irish

Wednesday 20 September 2017

Maeve Dineen: Taxpayer is once again the biggest loser in Quinn showdown

Maeve Dineen

TODAY'S showdown between Sean Quinn, Anglo Irish Bank and the Financial Regulator has all the ingredients of a great play.

Sean Quinn is an obvious leading character. The self-made, quiet country man, who became one of the richest tycoons in the State but lost it all on an ill-advised share deal in one of the country's most corrupt banks.

Anglo Irish Bank will be uncontested for the role of the villain. Clearly, it is now despised by the audience who believes it's rotten to the core.

The Financial Regulator, Matthew Elderfield, will be easily cast as the new sheriff in town. Meanwhile, the Government will revert to type; so unsure of its role that it will simply wait in the wings to see how it all plays out.

And the love interest in all of this is the simple, but unrelenting, love of money.

While the future of all the characters depends on this performance, none will feel the pressure today as much as the new sheriff.

He is the whole reason the play is going on and he knows this is make or break time for him.

Ever since he appointed provisional administrators to Quinn Insurance on March 30, it has become clear that there has been a complete breakdown of trust between Sean Quinn and the regulator.

The reason for the greater-than-expected bank capital requirements was due to his insistence that the National Asset Management Agency receives a far higher discount of 47pc on the bad loans it buys from the banks, and that the banks get their equity-capital ratios up to 7pc by the end of this year.

Already, the mutterings among the business classes are that Elderfield will over-regulate the country.

"He better know what he's doing"; "tight regulation will hamper economic recovery"; and "this new guy doesn't understand what is at risk here," are the common phrases being used in the wake of Elderfield's first two regulatory decisions.

There is only one thing at risk here and that is the future reputation of the country.

Yes, the Government has a duty to protect jobs but the Government also has a duty towards regulation.

It's the web of financial, regulatory and political malfeasance that caused the financial meltdown.

Today the Government will have to decide what role to take.

It's also ironic that the Government has allowed Anglo Irish Bank to be the vehicle chosen to save Sean Quinn.

State-owned Anglo, which will ultimately need €22bn in taxpayers' money to stay afloat, has tabled a plan to Mr Elderfield which would see the bank effectively take control of Quinn's firm.

While the bank would inject several hundred million euro into Quinn to keep it trading, the basic tenet of the proposal reflects the bank's need to secure debts of €2.8bn owed by the Quinn family after their complex share deal turned sour.

However, neither Anglo nor the regulator appear to want any of the Quinn family involved in running the company from now on.

So you see, dear reader, how the plot turns?

In the bubble years, the bankers loaned money willy-nilly, pretending to make the pubic rich while the regulator looked the other way.

Now the politicians create a distraction, pretending to punish the bankers, while together they pick the public's pocket for billions.

The bankers are judged guilty, but the audience hangs.

Irish Independent

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