Thursday 27 April 2017

Cowen accused of letting bankers write their own rules

Taoiseach Brian Cowen was accused today of allowing bankers to write their own rules and pave the way for so-called light-touch regulation when Finance Minister.

Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore said Mr Cowen established a forum on financial regulation two-and-a-half years ago with bank bosses invited as advisers.

But the Taoiseach rejected the claims, pointing to similar work now being done by Financial Regulator Matthew Elderfield and Central Bank Governor Patrick Honohan as they consult with banks to overhaul corporate governance rules.

"It doesn't mean that they're beholding to the industry, it means that they're listening to people to see if there are practical issues to make sure that the best practice possible is applied, that it will be effective and it will work," Mr Cowen told the Dail.

"That isn't regarded as something that shouldn't be done. But yet you (Mr Gilmore) suggest the same process dealt with in the past was in someway nefarious."

The Advisory Forum on Financial Legislation was set up by Mr Cowen when he was minister for finance and held seven meetings between 2007 and 2008.

Its purpose was to draft laws to modernise financial regulation, but was wound up last year as the system of light-touch, or principles-based regulation, was being blamed for Ireland's banking crisis.

Mr Gilmore called on the Taoiseach to accept that it was a mistake to bring in bankers and allow them to draft their own rules.

"You (Taoiseach) brought in bankers to draft legislation on banking, to write their own rules, that's what you did," Mr Gilmore said.

"That's what the committee was about. You gave them a brief, you now say light-touch regulation was something of the past. You gave them a brief to prepare light-touch regulation.

"The problem is you say you heard nothing, you saw nothing, you're going to admit nothing, you've learned nothing and you certainly have changed nothing."

The Labour Party chief also claimed there was still a "golden circle" operating in the financial sector.

He pointed to the fact that Ernst & Young, appointed to Irish Nationwide as forensic accountants, were the same firm drafted in to audit the now nationalised Anglo Irish Bank.

"What's going to happen here Taoiseach when they come to forensically examine the loans that were transferred by Sean FitzPatrick from Anglo Irish to Irish Nationwide. And when they come to forensically examine what role did the auditors play in that process.

"There's a clear conflict of interest.

"The difficulty here Taoiseach is that because of your approach... we're back to the same old, same old, where the people in the inside track, and the golden circle, are still being reappointed to examine themselves."

Mr Cowen said they should wait to see the company's work before commenting.

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