Monday 19 March 2018

'Asleep at the wheel' former regulator stays quiet

Patrick Neary, former chief executive of the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority
Patrick Neary, former chief executive of the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

HE'S been accused by critics of being "asleep at the wheel" during his controversial tenure as financial regulator.

Last night, the former banking watchdog Patrick Neary could not be roused from his comfortable retirement to respond to the revelations contained in the recorded phone conversation of Anglo Irish Bank executives.

Approached at his home in Dundrum, Mr Neary said, "no comment, whatsoever, thanks very much" when he was asked for his reaction to the extraordinary recordings.

Put to him that it appeared that Anglo had been lying to his regulator's office, as well as the Central Bank, when they sought a €7bn loan they knew wouldn't save the bank, he replied again: "No comment, thanks for coming out."

Meanwhile, the former governor of the Central Bank, John Hurley, who retired in 2009, was not at home when the Irish Independent called to his house in North Dublin.

Mr Neary was financial regulator at the height of the boom as banks, including Anglo, engaged in the reckless lending practices that contributed to Ireland's economic collapse.

He retired at the beginning of 2009.

In a statement upon his retirement, Mr Neary said: "I am proud of my distinguished career spanning almost 40 years as a public servant who acted at all times in the public interest."

Mr Neary was given a €630,000 pay-off when he retired and is reported to enjoy an annual pension of more than €100,000.

He is named in the recorded phone conversation between former Anglo bosses John Bowe and Peter Fitzgerald on September 18, 2008, which has been revealed by the Irish Independent.

Mr Bowe had been involved in negotiations with the Central Bank. Mr Fitzgerald had not been involved in the negotiations and has confirmed that he was unaware of any strategy or intention to mislead the authorities. Mr Bowe denies that he misled the Central Bank.

In the discussion about a desperate plan by the bank to secure a €7bn loan, Mr Bowe describes a meeting he had at the regulator's office the day before.

He says: "Went into IFSRA (Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority) and basically kind of gave it to them between the eyes and they were sort of pointing in different directions.

"Not us . . . not us, but geez, you would want to get on that, that sounds hmm . . . hmm."


He described how he had met with Mr Neary and another regulatory official saying: "And then we had Pat Neary coming in and (other official) saying (mimicking the official), 'so look, c'mere, have you actually got any decent assets that you can put in play?

"Is there stuff there, like, that has value? And look lads, you know, if you're going for this now, make sure whatever you get sorts it out, ok?'"

Mr Fitzgerald says: "What do you mean, 'whatever you get sorts it out?'"

Mr Bowe: "In other words, whatever you get from the regulator sorts out the issue."

Mr Fitzgerald: "Oh yeah, yeah . . . just make it f***ing happen . . . don't f**k it up."

"Don't be coming back," Mr Bowe added.

Irish Independent

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