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Anglo Tapes – they knew for a year that bank was in crisis


John Bowe

John Bowe

John Bowe

Anglo Irish Bank executives knew the bank was in huge trouble almost a full year before the Government's infamous blanket guarantee, the latest Anglo Tapes reveal.

But they desperately wanted to prevent the news seeping out to the markets – rightly fearing the catastrophic consequences among investors.

The tapes reveal executives admitting that the bank breached rating agency limits in order to borrow before things got even worse.

They show that they feared big corporate depositors would pull €10bn from Anglo in late 2007.

They even discussed denying the bank's reliance on the European Central Bank for €360m of loans, if the question was asked.

"Do we answer 'yes' to that or do we just say 'f***in' no'," a senior Anglo executives asks in relation to the secret loans.

The latest Anglo Tapes revelations are the earliest yet – dating back to the start of November 2007, just weeks before the bank announced record-breaking profits and boasted that its "risk appetite remains conservative".

The November 2007 call again features acting head of Treasury at Anglo, John Bowe, now familiar to most readers for his infamous "picked it out of my arse" quotes a year later.

In the latest tape, he speaks to Declan Quilligan, the then head of the bank's UK operations.

The call was prompted by fears that Anglo was in real danger as international investors pulled money from its bonds and shares and had begun betting in the "credit default market" that the bank was heading for default.

John Bowe confides fears that the bank could lose €10bn in big corporate deposits over the coming month if "sophisticated" customers wise up.

The top officials admitted they had breached rating agency rules in a desperate bid to borrow €500m in cash from an investor in the US.

The call took place in early November 2007, 11 months before the government bank guarantee was put in place, as the bank's share price was plummeting.

Mr Bowe was deeply concerned at negative views on the markets, and claimed it was being targeted by London-based hedge funds.

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The two executives rehearsed what they would tell investors about the situation, including the ECB loans if asked.

"'What have you done, have you accessed ECB?' We've accessed ECB funding twice in the last three months for a total of €360m, right. You know what I mean, so you actually, but you're not putting ... " John Bowe says.

"Do we answer 'yes' to that or do we just say 'f***in' no?'" Declan Quilligan wonders.

"No, but people do read that as negative John. If I was to read that right now I would say 'oh f***', whereas it's a nothing. . . ," Mr Quilligan says.

"I don't think it's credible to say that you haven't drawn anything against ECB," Mr Bowe replies.

The executive explained to Mr Quilligan how €2bn the bank had raised on October 31 by putting up a share of its mortgage book as security failed to reassure the markets that Anglo was in good shape. It had had the opposite effect.

"I'm not looking to panic, but I think what we need to do is have a very carefully orchestrated kind of communication with the market to, to basically soothe it," says Mr Bowe.

"We should gently push back because if we push back too hard at the moment it will look like we're frightened," he says.

Mr Quilligan asks: "Are we top of the credit default spreads now?" This is a reference to the cost to investors of insuring against a default by Anglo.


Only Northern Rock "is higher than us", says Mr Bowe, revealing that Anglo's borrowing costs were at the same level as the UK bank that had just seen the first British bank-run in 150 years.

"And that's saying . . . there's a 20pc chance of default on the bonds. So, the markets are very negative," Mr Bowe explains.

He says up to €10bn of the bank's deposits were at risk if worried clients decided to start pulling the cash out.

He then says the bank was in the process of procuring a €500m loan, but it meant it breached ratings agency risk parameters – which would have set off even louder alarm bells. The solution is not to tell.

Mr Bowe tells Mr Quilligan that they could "legitimise" the situation by telling the rating agency "look it's a large number so we took it".

"You legitimise it by saying: 'Lads there was f***in' misinformation in the f***in' market and we took it kind of when it was available and now that there's information in the market, the market is calm again,'" Quilligan agrees.