Sunday 18 March 2018

Emmet Oliver: Anglo management is not scoring highly on openness

Emmet Oliver

The new management team at Anglo Irish Bank have done many good things -- cut costs, reset the bank's risk appetite, published far more detail on directors' loans and other exposures than ever before, and, of course, written down loans in a honest, if brutal way from a taxpayer point of view.

But in terms of transparency, the performance has been more mixed. For example, the bank has not held a single press conference, accessible to all, since the Mike Aynsley-led management team took over at the bank.

A press conference was not held for the annual results published earlier this year and not held for this week's half-year results either. Press conferences are the only opportunity the public gets, via the media, to question the bank's management, who happen to be running a company whose very existence depends on the benevolence of taxpayers.

Instead, the bank has been disseminating information in other, more controlled ways, usually through one-on-one interviews, which involve the bank selecting who they want to talk to. This is not the normal practice in Irish business and certainly not the traditional practice of large companies (or banks) in state ownership.

The bank has also sustained self-inflicted injuries in the way it has handled the 'good bank/bad bank' debate.

The bank has failed to sell the idea to the public and the political establishment, not because it's necessarily a bad idea, but because a fully costed justification for the idea has not been published. It cites commercial confidentiality reasons and EU Commission sensitivities, but the theoretical case for a good bank/bad bank split can surely be made with at least some illustrative costings and assumptions, without Anglo damaging itself commercially.

An EU Commission document about the proposal from earlier this year was ridiculously secretive and even deleted mention of the market segments Anglo hopes to exploit in future as a 'good bank'. Anglo won't say either which parts of the lending market it wants to serve or what level of capital will be required to start up a 'good bank'?

Wasn't a lack of transparency at Anglo what got us into trouble in the first place?

Irish Independent

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