Thursday 23 March 2017

Blame for collapse of banks rests with people who probably broke no laws

Drip-feed of information from trial highlights need for full inquiry to provide detailed narrative of crash, writes Colm McCarthy

Debacle: Sean Quinn, whose insurance firm went bust
Debacle: Sean Quinn, whose insurance firm went bust
Anglo did not go under because of the loans extended in July 2008 to resolve Sean Quinn's stock market speculations
Colm McCarthy

Colm McCarthy

The outcome of the Anglo trial, and the acquittal of Sean FitzPatrick, underlines once again the need for a proper banking inquiry.

Responsibility for the collapse of the Irish banking system has yet to be allocated. Clearly it lies with bankers and their supervisors, but which ones? Responsibility will never be allocated fairly, or at all, through criminal trials, for the simple reason that bank crashes do not typically arise from behaviour that breaches the criminal law. Anglo did not go under because of the loans extended in July 2008 to resolve Sean Quinn's stock market speculations. It was bust already at that stage and went down with a deficiency more than 10 times what was lent to take out Mr Quinn's underwater share positions.

The acquittal of Mr FitzPatrick angered many people judging by the traffic on social media. He had been selected as the personification of whatever had gone wrong, and the public were denied the spectacle of Anglo's former leader being led away in chains. It should be clear that if Sean FitzPatrick had been charged with personally causing the Irish banking crash, if such an offence existed, he would also have had to be acquitted. He was certainly a significant player in the downfall of the financial system but so were scores of others, including some yet to be identified, in senior positions in the banks, every one of which had to be rescued. Neither was he on trial for mismanaging one of the largest banks and the one which inflicted the largest losses, since mismanagement of business enterprises is not a criminal offence.

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