Tuesday 25 October 2016

For €6.5m, you would expect a lot more from this report

Published 28/01/2016 | 02:30

Jean ClaudeTrichet
Jean ClaudeTrichet

The Oireachtas Banking Inquiry report is a deeply unsatisfying account of what occurred before and after the economic crash.

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After costing the taxpayer €6.5m - €1.5m more than planned - it was reasonable to expect that some startling revelations would emerge from the 600-plus pages delivered at Leinster House.

Instead, a general public well used to being failed by the banks, regulators and legislators has been short-changed again. What we have been presented with is a report big on pointing out the obvious - and light on providing any new insight.

Yes, it comes down hard on Jean-Claude Trichet and the European Central Bank for stopping the Government from burning bondholders, in the process saddling citizens with billions of euro in extra debt. But in the main, the report tells us what we already knew.

The bankers destroyed their own institutions through reckless behaviour.


The financial regulator was a pussycat and the banks had no fear of breaching property lending rules.


The Central Bank was spouting a load of rubbish when it kept predicting a "soft landing" for the housing market.


Government policies overheated the property market.


We've heard and read it all before.

Should we be surprised that this is what the Banking Inquiry has come up with?

Probably not.

Almost eight years have passed since the bank guarantee, and almost six since the bailout by the Troika. There has been the Nyberg report, the Regling-Watson report and the Honohan report.

The Banking Inquiry covered much of the same ground as its predecessors - the only difference being that it conducted most of its business in public.

But even with this "show trial" element to its make-up, the legal restrictions associated with an Oireachtas inquiry were always going to make for an emasculated probe.

It was not able to make findings of fact against individuals, for example.Criticisms were confined to institutions, departments or politicians in general.

Events away from the tribunal also contributed to a key absence from the report, a dedicated chapter on Anglo Irish Bank.

The inquiry was severely restricted in its examination of the bank.

Although references are peppered to Anglo throughout the report, it is a pity a deeper examination of the bank was not possible.

The role of Anglo's former chief executive David Drumm, who is currently battling against extradition from the US, should have been teased out more and conclusions arrived at.

But the committee, following contact from the DPP, opted not to hear video evidence from him.

The report contains little in the way of examination of the golf outing in Druids Glen involving Brian Cowen and former Anglo directors Sean FitzPatrick and Fintan Drury in July 2008.

Various protagonists are quoted, giving their accounts of what was discussed, but the inquiry itself did not reach any conclusions about the meeting.

Also deeply unsatisfactory is the fact that Nama received little scrutiny.

The State-constructed largest property company in the world has never been far from controversy, not least over the sale of asset portfolios at huge write-downs.

Yet the inquiry says it was not possible to fully assess its performance and effectiveness.

In its findings, the inquiry noted that some borrowers were not happy to have good loans, as well as bad ones, acquired by Nama.

Again, like most of what is in the report, we knew that already.

Irish Independent

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