Tuesday 20 March 2018

Ex-BoI chief says Cowen 'very much in charge' on night of bank guarantee


Clodagh Sheehy

Former Taoiseach Brian Cowen was "very much in charge" on the night of the bank guarantee, according to the ex-boss of Bank of Ireland Brian Goggin.

Mr Goggin has also disputed AIB's recollection that the bankers were not told that night there would be a "blanket guarantee".

Mr Goggin said he could "picture the room" that night with Mr Cowen sitting at the top of the table, chairing the meeting and "very much in charge".

Former Finance Minister, the late Brian Lenihan, engaged in most of the interaction - "discussions, looking for views, questions, input", he told the Banking Inquiry.

The government officials, he added, "tended to be, in that environment, subservient to the minister".

Mr Goggin's recollection of that night is in contrast to that of AIB. He said there was "no ambiguity" by the end of the discussions that the government was putting in place a blanket guarantee for all six major banks.

AIB representatives have already told the inquiry they only found out the following morning in media reports that Anglo and Irish Nationwide banks were to be included.

Mr Goggin said he believed AIB "was with us at that point" in the room when the blanket guarantee was confirmed.

The former chief executive explained to the inquiry that the "entire day and the night" of September 29, 2008, was "the worst day of my life".

He added: "It was incredibly stressful and traumatic."

The next morning, Bank of Ireland was asked by the Central Bank about the possibility of taking over Irish Life and Permanent should Anglo and Irish Nationwide fail and the other four banks be guaranteed.

At 2.30pm, Mr Goggin and Bank of Ireland governor Richard Burrows attending a meeting requested by Anglo's chairman and chief executive.

In response to questions from Senator Susan O'Keeffe, he said they told him they had a liability maturing the following day for between €1.5bn or €2bn and they would be unable to honour it. They asked if BoI would acquire Anglo.

Mr Goggin said his bank was not interested and "politely" told Anglo they could be of no assistance. He told the committee the nationalisation of Anglo and Irish Nationwide was "not a realistic prospect" on the night of the guarantee.

The government that night was "in a dreadful predicament".

Mr Goggin stressed that by the end of the night, he was in no doubt that a decision had been made for a blanket guarantee.

He was not present when the decision was made - but "given the circumstances at the time I don't think they had much alternative option".

The former group chief executive admitted that in the run-up to the crash, serious errors of strategic judgment were made by Bank of Ireland and "I am very sorry that this ultimately happened on my watch".


Asked by TD Michael McGrath if the bank had "taken too much risk", Mr Goggin replied: "We did."

It was "cold comfort" that his bank was not as badly hit by the crisis as other lenders and was "relatively better off", he added.

Mr Goggin also said he was so opposed to 100pc mortgages, he had advised the Financial Regulator in mid-2006 to bring in a ban on mortgages of more than 90pc. The regulator had responded that it was not its role to interfere in the market, he said.

In response to questions from Senator Sean Barrett, Mr Goggin said he saw no reason why the regulator would not intervene in a case where "the market was getting out of hand".

He added: "That's why I asked the question in the first place."

Irish Independent

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