Sunday 28 December 2014

Whelan's good friendship with Maple 10 convinced them of deal

Sarah Stack

Published 18/04/2014 | 02:30

Former Anglo director Patrick Whelan at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court yesterday
Former Anglo director Patrick Whelan at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court yesterday

A career banker from humble beginnings, Pat Whelan made his mark in Ireland's financial hub before the Celtic Tiger lost its roar.

Born and bred in the heart of Dublin's north inner city, the Marlboro Street native attended St Joseph's School in Fairview before he took his first job at a cash desk in an AIB branch in north Dublin.

Described as "a good guy, very competent" by Sean FitzPatrick, he steadily soared through the ranks at Anglo after he joined – at the bottom of the ladder – in 1989.

By the end, Whelan was heading the bank's lending division for Ireland and oversaw billions of euros in loans to speculators and property investors in the boom years.

The father of two, who has made his family home on Malahide's scenic Coast Road, turned 52 yesterday as he was found guilty on 10 counts of illegally lending a total of €450m to the Maple 10.

Whelan was one of two directors who remained working for Anglo – and the Irish government – for several months after it was nationalised before he opted to take redundancy and set up a consultancy firm.

After fraud squad officers were called in by the Financial Regulator, it was Whelan's own internal report on Quinn and the Maple 10 – who he dubbed the "10 heroes" of the bank – became the "bed rock" of the garda probe that followed.

In 2012, he and his one-time boardroom colleague William McAteer – closely followed by Sean FitzPatrick – became the first bankers in the history of the state charged with white collar crime.

Yesterday, Whelan and McAteer were also the first to be convicted.

Whelan never denied his role in the loan for shares deal in July 2008. He appeared at David Drumm's side, shadowing him to France and Portugal as the pair convinced the chosen members of the Maple 10 to help stabilise Anglo's plummeting share price.

It was his long-standing friendship with the bank's most trusted customers that convinced them to sign up to the deal – some within minutes without reading the details.

He had told staff in his lending team to prepare facility letters for the Maple 10 offering loans of up to €60m each with just 25pc recourse, meaning the men were only liable for a quarter of the loan if the share price collapsed.

With the backing of the Financial Regulator, Anglo's compliance department and lawyers, he had no reason to believe they were illegal, his barristers argued.

But Whelan later ordered new facility letters be drafted in October 2008 – and back dated to July – changing the terms and increasing Anglo's risk.

They were "David's concept", he told gardai, claiming David Drumm had instructed the terms be changed to protect the Maple 10 and give them some "breathing space" if there was an "aggressive acquisition" of Anglo.

Whelan was charged with seven counts of being privy to the fraudulent alteration of loan facility letters.

But as the end of the trial was in sight, Judge Martin Nolan dropped a bombshell and directed not guilty verdicts on the seven counts.

The letters were new facility letters rather than altered ones, his counsel argued in the absence of the jury.

But it was the prosecution's banking expert who put the spotlight back on the issue of recourse. Ex-banker Tom Reid agreed there was nothing conceptually wrong with lending money to buy shares, once done commercially with full recourse. But 25pc recourse – not 100pc recourse – to private borrowers was not a favourable deal for the bank in his 40 years' experience with Ulster Bank.

Reid also criticised the Anglo bankers for approaching the Maple 10 with the deal in mind.

Irish Independent

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