Shane Ross

Monday 28 July 2014

Shane Ross: Gary's golden PID pension pot

Shane Ross

Published 11/11/2012|05:00

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The scene: Anglo Irish Bank Headquarters, Burlington Road, in the heart of Dublin 4.

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Present: in the chair, Anglo director and former AIB chief Gary Kennedy.

Public interest directors: Bank of Ireland's Joe Walsh and Tom Considine, Irish Permanent's Ray MacSharry and Margaret Hayes, AIB's Dick Spring and Michael Somers.

Gary Kennedy: "Welcome, everybody. I thought we should meet urgently. The Dail's Finance Committee is getting frisky. They've summoned all you Public Interest Directors (PIDs) of the banks to account for your selves.

"Strictly speaking, Anglo directors are not PIDs, but we are government-appointed and receive our rewards from the taxpayer. We in Anglo will be next in line. So we are all in the manure together.

"Joe, maybe you'd kick off? Tell us what you will tell the committee about your actions in the 'public interest' since you were made a director."

Joe: "Easy. I have taken the chair of the remuneration committee at Bank of Ireland. It is an important post, a recognition of my high standing at the bank."

Gary: "Jesus, Joe. Don't tell them that. Does that mean you stand over Richie Boucher's €620,000 salary? Did you approve of the €8,000 a week for your new governor, Archie Kane? Good man, Joe, but maybe you'd tell us if the committee sees such largesse as being in the public interest?"

Joe: "Er, I see what you mean. I won't go there. Instead, I'll tell them about my qualifications for the paltry €217,000 I have received since I was appointed.

"Don't worry, the encounter will be a home match for me. As politicians, the Finance Committee members will warm to me. I'm a former Fianna Fail cabinet minister serving under the great Bertie Ahern. Beat that, Gary.

"I was appointed to the bank board by Fianna Fail -- on merit of course. I am one of their own. If you are called before the committee, Gary, what will you tell them?"

Gary: "Me? I travel below the radar, Joe. Nobody remembers my time at AIB -- thank God. I am apolitical, an honest ex-banker. I was appointed to the board of Anglo by Fianna Fail because of my distinguished banking pedigree.

"I was a top executive and on the board of AIB in the good old days -- until 2005. Thank God I lost out to poor Eugene Sheehy for the big job. Like him, I was awarded a monumental going-away package -- when I was only 47.

"They gave me a consultancy gig for two years until 2007, the year that the collapse began. They added a pension and topped it up with an extra €2m. It could cost as much as €8m to fund today! I'm on the pig's back, thanks to the taxpayer. I have form. No problem about explaining my credentials -- but I am praying the Finance Committee doesn't notice me. They might not see my talents in quite the same light."

Joe: "Good stuff, Gary. Having been a director of AIB in the glory days is as good a qualification as having been a minister under Bertie. We will sail through. Anything else you could tell them?"

Gary: "I am a pal of Dermot Gleeson, the deposed chair of AIB. I feature prominently in Shane Ross and Nick Webb's book, The Untouchables. I have been quietly resurrected. We, the old guard, are on the march.

"Do you agree, Ray? And you, Dick? You were both TDs yourselves. You will know how to deal with this latest cabal of upstarts."

Ray MacSharry: "Let me loose on the TDs. I cover both politics and banking. I was on the board of Bank of Ireland for 12 years -- the board that approved Brian Goggin's appointment. I served in Government under Charlie Haughey. I've seen saints and scoundrels at work. No wonder Fianna Fail made me a director of Irish Permanent.

"I am a Fianna Fail politician to the last drop of my blood, another hardened member of the old guard of banking. Who would be better placed to be a public interest director?

"Maybe you, Dick? Sure, we soldiered together on the board of Eircom. Remember that day in 2000 when we quelled the small shareholders' revolt? We relied on the proxies from the big banks to crush that little outbreak of shareholder democracy.

"Remember, when the crowd booed you after you pleaded you could not afford to buy any Eircom shares! You're as cute as a fox when it comes to shares. How many do you hold in AIB?"

Dick: "None. I'm a socialist -- not a gobshite. I am proud to be the people's representative on the AIB board. I am grateful for the €59,000 annual fee. A good top-up to my Dail and ministerial pensions.

"As a fatcat pensioner from Leinster House myself, I am ideally equipped to tackle the pensions row in AIB. Your AIB pension is safe with me, Gary.

"Sure, the politicians are all on the same pensions gravy train as the rest of us. And they will not touch me. I am not a member of Fianna Fail. I am an ex-leader of the Labour Party. Labour is in power. The committee is stuffed with Labour TDs and has a Labour Party chairman. I look forward to meeting a few friendly faces."

Gary: "Don't be so sure. Michael Somers, your colleague at AIB, might be a safer spokesman. Any old skeletons in your cupboard, Michael? How much do you get paid as deputy chairman?"

Michael Somers: "Er, €150,000 -- that's the going rate for the deputy chair of a bankrupt bank in Ireland. But they will understand, when I explain that it's a huge drop from the €1m package I took when I slaved in the public interest as boss of the National Treasury Management Agency [NTMA]. I am now slumming it on five grand a week. I hope they will not rumble that I already get a mighty pension from the NTMA."

Gary: "Okay, we are insulated from criticism. All our defences are in line. Oh, I nearly forgot our last two PIDS, the distinguished former civil servants on the bank boards. The nation owes Tom Considine and Margaret Hayes a debt of gratitude. No doubt the Finance Committee wants to thank them for all their sacrifices.

"Tom, what will you tell them?"

Tom Considine: "That I succeeded John Hurley as secretary-general of the Department of Finance when he moved to his €368,000-a-year job as governor of the Central Bank. I retired on a big pension in 2006. By the time I left, the property frenzy was running amok. So I know all about the events that led to the financial collapse.

"I was the boss there under Charlie McCreevy and Brian Cowen. I even sat on the board of the old Regulator and the Central Bank in poor Paddy Neary's time. No one can challenge my expertise in disasters."

Gary: "It could be a bit awkward. They might think you carried an element of responsibility.

"And Margaret, what will you tell them?"

Margaret Hayes: "I am neither a politician nor a banker -- but, like Tom, I am an insider from the civil service stable. I was secretary-general of two departments. It would be good to provide a gender quota for the committee."

Gary: "I don't think you will add much to the party. How on Earth were you appointed a PID? You are not a banker or a politician. I am going to close the meeting now. Welcome to the golden circle."

'The Untouchables' by Shane Ross and Nick Webb is is all good book stores now

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