Business Anglo Tapes

Monday 22 January 2018

Tapes show that time was fast running out for bank and its boss

David Drumm, the former chief executive of Anglo Irish Bank
David Drumm, the former chief executive of Anglo Irish Bank
Donal O'Donovan

Donal O'Donovan

THE latest Anglo Tapes take the story forward three months to December 2008 and David Drumm's final days as chief of the bank.

They record a hugely significant conversation between executives at a critical time for the bank.

By December 15 the Government was lining up a €1.5bn cheque aimed at keeping Anglo afloat – the banks and Department of Finance officials were locked in talks on just how that would happen.

Less than a week later, on December 21, the Government made a decision to inject €1.5bn of taxpayers' money into the bank, and by then Mr Drumm would be gone.

That was despite the fact that on December 3 the bank had published its notorious annual results for the year to the end of the previous September.

These showed the bank making a significant profit. But the market was not buying it.

So by December 15 Mr Drumm was still the bank's chief executive, but the battle to keep it afloat had become desperate.

We hear him rail against banks and stockbrokers whose sombre view on Anglo was radically at odds with his plans to keep the bank going.

He angrily tells John Bowe that US investment bank Merrill Lynch had called Anglo a "basket case" and recommended it should be shut or nationalised (Merrill Lynch was acting as an adviser to the government) in relation to the banking crisis.

Mr Drumm was told of the US bank's advice by Alan Dukes, the former Minister for Finance who had been parachuted on to the board of Anglo by the late Brian Lenihan that month.

Department of Finance documents from the period released in 2010 had already shown Merrill Lynch was sceptical about Anglo at this time.

We know they advised the government that Anglo, along with Irish Nationwide Building Society, might need to be nationalised because of their difficulty accessing funds in the market, but the latest revelation appears to be much blunter, and go much further.

According to Mr Drumm, Brian Lenihan and Brian Cowen ignored advice to shut Anglo.

If true, it means Merrill Lynch went further than thought in warning the Cowen government about the danger of using state funds to protect bust banks.

The fact that Alan Dukes was said to be aware of that advice suggests that view was being circulated beyond just the Government.

Anglo would eventually be nationalised in January 2009.

On December 15, Mr Drumm was discussing the situation with the bank's newly promoted director of treasury John Bowe ahead of what was one of his final meetings with Mr Lenihan.

As well as Merrill Lynch, he rails against Davy Stockbrokers and RBS, financial institutions that had also, rightly, taken a dim view of Anglo's prospects

A feature of all of Mr Drumm's conversations is how he sees all such criticism as personally or financially driven. He never accepts that outsiders are right to see the glaring flaws in Anglo.

Three days after the next day's meeting with Mr Lenihan, Mr Drumm was to resign as chief executive of Anglo Irish Bank.

Irish Independent

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