THE managing partner of accounting firm Ernst & Young has defended its auditing of Anglo Irish Bank, saying that, while the law may need to be changed, he is "very proud" of the job the firm did at the bank.
The firm has maintained a strict silence since it emerged that directors at Anglo, in particular chairman Sean FitzPatrick, were moving their huge loans from the bank to other lenders just before audits so that they did not appear in the accounts.
Ernst & Young received particular criticism for declining to appear before an Oireachtas committee investigating the matter, but managing partner Mike McKerr told 'Business & Finance' magazine that they had no choice.
"There was a media storm around Anglo at the time and part of the frustration our people felt was that we weren't out there conveying our message.
"But we didn't believe it was right to be part of the debate around Anglo in the press. We were auditors to Anglo and we very strongly believed -- and continue to believe -- that we discharged our responsibilities in a very proper and very professional way," he said.
Mr McKerr, who was appointed last July, said they were very proud of the "fantastic job" the auditors did in signing off the accounts under a lot of pressure and press speculation.
He expects Ernst & Young to be fully exonerated in the current investigations.
He said the firm had audited the accounts as presented by the board in accordance with the guidelines, regulations and the law.
"Unfortunately, some of these 'bed and breakfast' type loans which were made to directors were not illegal. People have said there was a whistleblowing responsibility but that is not true, because they weren't illegal."
He said that the law and regulations may have to be changed.
"If you had to disclose movements in directors' loans during a year; that would have provided much more pertinent information in this case.
"We need to learn the lessons from Anglo. I'm very willing to engage in that debate," Mr McKerr said.