Tuesday 17 October 2017

The political contacts that led to controversy

Fionnan Sheahan

Fionnan Sheahan

TELEPHONE CALL:

INVOLVED: Brian Cowen and Sean FitzPatrick

DATE: March 2008

LOCATION: Dublin and Vietnam

ARRANGED BY: Fintan Drury

WHY IT HAPPENED: The so-called St Patrick's Day Massacre of the Irish stock market saw the bank's shares fall by 15pc. Mr Drury advised Mr FitzPatrick to contact Mr Cowen, who was away. At the end of a trade mission to Asia, Mr Cowen took a couple of days in a resort in Vietnam. Mr Drury informed him Mr FitzPatrick was looking to talk to him.

WHAT HAPPENED: Mr FitzPatrick spoke to Mr Cowen about rumours circulating about the bank. He also told the then finance minister about the problem with the bank shares held by the businessman Sean Quinn, who had acquired them using risky contracts for difference, known as CFDs.

Mr Cowen rang back Central Bank Governor John Hurley and told him the position and said to him to make sure it was followed up. The next day, the Central Bank governor and the Financial Regulator met with Anglo Irish Bank.

CONFLICT: Mr Cowen says he took Mr FitzPatrick's call only after speaking with Mr Hurley, who had told him earlier that month about the problems at Anglo. Mr FitzPatrick makes no mention of Mr Cowen's previous knowledge or of a delay when he rang the finance minister.

DINNER:

INVOLVED: Brian Cowen, Sean FitzPatrick, David Drumm, Fintan Drury, Gary McGann and other Anglo directors

DATE: April 2008

LOCATION: Heritage House, Dublin

ARRANGED BY: Fintan Drury

WHY IT HAPPENED: A favour by Mr Cowen to Mr Drury on his departure from the board.

WHAT HAPPENED: Just two weeks before becoming Taoiseach, Mr Cowen attended the private dinner. He arrived late and Mr Drury introduced him to the other guests. Mr Cowen had a gin and tonic and chatted with a group of about a dozen Anglo board members and executives. At dinner, Mr Cowen drank red wine and had Mr FitzPatrick on his left and Mr Drumm on his right.

After dessert, Mr FitzPatrick asked each of his executives to give Mr Cowen a brief update on the lending environment in their various areas.

The non-executive directors also updated Mr Cowen on how they saw the economy.

Mr Drumm repeatedly voiced his concerns about how difficult it was to hold on to deposits and raise new funding in the crisis.

Mr FitzPatrick said Mr Drumm did ask about the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA). Mr Drumm wanted Mr Cowen to have a word about it placing some of its money on deposit with the bank. Mr FitzPatrick said Mr Cowen said he'd look into it.

Mr FitzPatrick said there was no discussion of Mr Quinn or of the urgent phone call six weeks earlier.

CONFLICT: Mr Drumm claims Mr Cowen indicated he had intervened with the NTMA to put money on deposit in Anglo. Mr Cowen vehemently denies this claim and then NTMA chief Michael Somers says he has no recollection of such a contact.

GOLF:

INVOLVED: Brian Cowen, Sean FitzPatrick, Fintan Drury, Gary McGann and Alan Gray

DATE: July 2008

LOCATION: Druids Glen, Co Wicklow

ARRANGED BY: Fintan Drury

WHY IT HAPPENED: A round of golf and a think-tank dinner.

WHAT HAPPENED: Mr Cowen, Mr FitzPatrick and Mr Drury met for a round of golf at the exclusive course. Mr Cowen stayed at Druids Glen from 10am to 5pm.

After the golf game, they were joined by Anglo director Gary McGann and economic consultant Alan Gray for dinner. They discussed the economy -- but not Anglo or the banking sector.

Sinn Fein's Caoimhghin O Caolain was at a wedding in the hotel and approached Mr Cowen, who was in the bar at that stage, asking him to come and meet the married couple.

CONFLICT: Neither Mr Cowen nor Mr FitzPatrick made any mention of meeting Mr McGann and Mr Gray in their initial accounts of the day.

Irish Independent

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