Monday 15 October 2018

Central Bank and regulator 'egging us on' – Anglo

John Bowe former Anglo Irish Bank executive.
John Bowe former Anglo Irish Bank executive.

Gavin Sheridan and Tom Lyons

ANGLO Irish Bank executives voiced concerns that a move to temporarily boost its balance sheet with €7bn from Irish Life and Permanent (IL&P) could be seen as "market abuse".

But in the latest Anglo Tapes, head of treasury John Bowe can be heard convincing himself that the Central Bank and Financial Regulator were "effectively egging us on – for Irish banks to help each other".

Mr Bowe planned to craft a document to convince his superiors that a deal to improve the bank's balance sheet by €7bn was above board. In fresh extracts from the controversial recordings, Mr Bowe scrambles to explain the deal with IL&P in 2008 that shifted money in a circle to inflate their deposits.

The deal is now the subject of an ongoing investigation by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement.

In a phone conversation recorded in January 2009, an Anglo Irish Bank compliance executive, Fiachre O'Neill, tells

Mr Bowe he is aware that the Financial Regulator is already asking questions.

"You should be aware that the Regulator has asked us for our legal opinion as to whether there is market manipulation," he said.

Mr Bowe then raises the ante and says: "Market abuse. . ."

Mr O'Neill responds: ". . .or market abuse, in terms of this transaction. Just so you're aware that that's in the background as well."

The latest conversations will raise fresh questions about how much Anglo executives knew about serious liquidity problems at the bank during 2008, and the lengths they were willing to go to cover them up.

Mr Bowe has featured in several of the Anglo Tapes published by the Irish Independent and its sister paper, the 'Sunday Independent', over the past two weeks, often alongside the bank's former chief executive David Drumm.

But in a new statement at the weekend, Mr Drumm – who drove Anglo to the brink of nationalisation – accused politicians and senior officials of making him a scapegoat.

The latest tapes reveal the frenzied atmosphere in the bank as it spiralled towards state ownership in late 2008 and early 2009.

The tape of Mr Bowe speaking to Mr O'Neill, a compliance executive in Anglo, in January 2009, reveals how Mr Bowe tried to explain away the controversial IL&P deal as normal.

And a remarkable conversation from November 2008 shows Mr Drumm trying to use the state guarantee as leverage to help his bank get priority.

This is despite him already laughing about abusing the guarantee a month previously, which prompted Mr Bowe's infamous rendition of 'Deutschland, Deutschland Uber Alles'.

A month later, the mood has changed, and Mr Drumm knows at this stage that the fate of Anglo and Ireland are now bound together inextricably.

But he is obviously more concerned about the survival of his own bank. "You know we need to get billions," Mr Bowe says at one point. "We're a bigger bank and we're being treated like a f***in' bucket shop," Mr Drumm complains.

He also urges Mr Bowe to try to convince the National Treasury Management Agency that Anglo should be prioritised over AIB and Bank of Ireland.

A month later, in December 2008, Mr Drumm was gone from the bank – while new chairman Donal O'Connor was demanding to know what happened the previous year.

A deal with IL&P had seen billions flow around in a loop from one bank to another, in order to make Anglo's balance sheet look stronger.

Mr Bowe had apparently convinced himself that the Financial Regulator and Central Bank were "effectively egging us on – for Irish banks to help each other".

And he tells a colleague he will be "crafting a document" to explain away the €7bn deal with IL&P as something that is "typically done, to boost deposits in banks coming up to year end".

The Central Bank has strenuously denied that it ever encouraged or sanctioned this transaction, which Mr Bowe admits was potentially "market abuse".

Meanwhile, Mr Drumm released a statement at the weekend, accusing politicians and senior officials of making him a scapegoat for the banking crisis.

Mr Drumm insisted there was no desire or attempt whatsoever to mislead either or force the Irish Government to issue a blanket guarantee.

"I will no longer allow myself to be made the scapegoat," he said in a statement to RTE.

Current Central Bank governor Patrick Honohan said people have been "energised" by the publication of the Anglo Tapes, and said he had "no problem" with their publication.

Irish Independent

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