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'Big four' auditing firms share €7m from regulator

IRELAND'S 'big four' accountancy firms have shared €7m in fees from the Financial Regulator for advice on various aspects of the banking crisis, new figures reveal.

Invoices filed by KPMG, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte and Ernst & Young have now been handed over to the Public Accounts Committee, which is looking at the fees charged by various professional firms,

A breakdown of the fees and the work done has been given to the committee by Financial Regulator Matthew Elderfield.

Ironically, many of the firms benefiting from the fees audited the banks which caused the crisis.

For example, Ernst & Young provided advice to the regulator, even though it was auditor to Anglo Irish during 2008.

Several of its staff were seconded to the regulator during 2009 after being hired in February 2009.

One of the largest single bills presented to the regulator was for €2m from PWC. KPMG, for work done between March and April, presented a bill of €1.2m.

The accounting firms were used by the regulator for a range of work. The onset of the financial crisis has caused several of these firms to lose banking work.

Ernst & Young were replaced by Deloitte after concerns were raised about how Ernst & Young failed to detect the loans hidden from shareholders by Sean FitzPatrick, the former chief executive of Anglo.

KPMG helped on investigations carried out by the regulator, while Deloitte was paid for doing a review of directors' loans in five banks, which enabled it to claim fees of €116,300. In many cases accounting firms seconded staff for up to 21 days at a time.

Just before Christmas it was revealed that Anglo Irish shelled out €100m on fees in relation to the bank rescue.

Spending by Anglo was nearly four times the amount -- €26m -- paid out by the next highest spender, Bank of Ireland.

Former Justice Minister Michael McDowell and Peter Sutherland's Goldman Sachs were among the beneficiaries of spending by banks on consultants.

Figures for a number of banks include big fees to the Department of Finance among their costs.

Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide emerged as the big spenders.

Anglo Irish Bank has spent €90m on external advisers between being nationalised in January 2009 and up to September of this year.

The spending was up from "just" €7m in its last four months in private ownership.

Anglo paid €31m to a mix of non-legal and banking consultants after being taken into state hands. The advisers range from US management consultants Bain to property advisers Lisney and Jones Lang LaSalle.

Despite falling staff numbers and public anger about the lack of transparency from banks in general, Anglo Irish Bank paid fees to Cork-based Premier Recruitment and public relations firm Drury in relation to the bailout.

Wall Street and the City of London cashed in on the Irish crisis too, with six investment banks, including JP Morgan and RBS, sharing €10m in fees from Anglo alone.

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