Friday 28 November 2014

'You call it comfortable, I call it cheerleading'

Con Horan grilled on support for planned Quinn deal

Nicola Anderson and Dearbhail McDonald

Published 12/03/2014 | 12:45

Con Horan at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court
Con Horan at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court

A SENIOR official at the Financial Regulator has denied a suggestion that the regulator acted as a "cheerleader" to a planned deal to unwind businessman Sean Quinn's indirect stake in the former Anglo Irish Bank.

But Con Horan, former purdential director of the Fiancail Regulator, agreed that the office  was "very close" to a planned deal, in March 2008, to unwind Mr Quinn's  stake which had been built up using Contracts for Difference.

The loan-for-shares deal ultimately proceeded in July 2008.

Mr Horan, who was second in command at the  Fiancial Regulator in 2008,  said the office was "very pisitively disposed" towards the deal.

Under cross examination by Michael O'Higgins SC, representing former Anglo chairman Sean FitzPatrick, Mr Horan told the Circuit Criminal Court that the regulator was "engaged" in the deal.

However he disputed Mr O'Higgins' use of the term "cheerleading" for their role in the deal, saying : " I wouldn't characterise it like that."

However Mr O'Higgins continued to maintain that they were, saying : "Cheer leading, that's what you were doing."

Mr Horan replied that the Regulator had been "positively disposed" and "comfortable"towards the deal.

"You call it comfortable, I call it cheerleading - what's the difference?" queried Mr O' Higgins.

"Do people get a dictionary going to work in the financial services when they use these bland terms? asked Mr O'Higgins.

"Maybe my language isn't as colourful as yourself," replied Mr Horan, conceding that there was "not a huge difference" in their meanings.

"I'll settle on that," said Mr O'Higgins, agreeing that there wasn't much difference between "comfortable" and "cheer leading".

"It depends on your definition of cheer leading," said Mr Horan.

"We'll leave that to your imagination," retorted Mr O'Higgins.

Mr Horan is giving evidence today (WED)  in the trial of three former Anglo Irish Bank directors accused of allowing the bank to illegally provide loans used to fund the acquisition of the shares in the bank.

The three accused men are Sean FitzPatrick (65), from Greystones, Co Wicklow; William McAteer (63), of Rathgar in Dublin; and Patrick Whelan (51), of Malahide, Co Dublin.

They are charged with 16 counts each of providing unlawful financial assistance to 16 individuals in July 2008 to buy shares in Anglo Irish Bank.

The 16 are members of the Quinn family plus the so-called 'Maple 10'; a group of 10 former large-scale customers of Anglo Irish Bank. The three men have pleaded not guilty to all of the charges.

Earlier, Mr Horan said he had no recollection of the regulator being "very hands on" or directing Anglo and the Quinns to go to a solicitor for the purpose of drafting an agreement following a meeting on March 31st, shortly after the so called "St Patrick's Day Massacre" when the bank's share price fell steeply.

In 2008 Con Horan was the prudential director at the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority (IFSRA).

Mr Horan attended a series of meetings of the Domestic Standing Group (DSG), described by Senior Counsel Michael O'Higgins, representing Mr FitzPatrick, as "a doomsday committee" set up under European law to look at worst case scenarios in relation to financial stability.

The trial continues.

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