Business Irish

Friday 19 January 2018

Former Anglo auditor to join board at State-owned theatre

ON THE WINGS: Abbey Theatre and accountant Paul Smith
ON THE WINGS: Abbey Theatre and accountant Paul Smith
Nick Webb

Nick Webb

Paul Smith, the accountant who ran Anglo Irish Bank's auditors Ernst & Young as the bank racked up billions of disastrous property loans during the boom, has been appointed to the board of the state-owned Abbey Theatre in recent months.

Smith served as managing partner of Ernst & Young from 2000 until Mike McKerr succeeded him in July 2009 – six months after Anglo was nationalised. Smith served three terms as managing partner of Ernst & Young.

While he headed up Ernst & Young, Anglo Irish Bank paid it up to €10.3m for auditing services. The bank ultimately needed close to €30bn in a taxpayer bailout to prevent it from going under. Ernst & Young was replaced as auditor to the bombed-out bank by Deloitte in 2010.

Ernst & Young's role at Anglo Irish Bank has caused massive damage to its reputation. In 2011, accountancy body CARB referred findings on Ernst & Young's audits of Anglo Irish Bank to a disciplinary panel after a probe by special investigator John Purcell. No formal findings have been made against the firm and the the disciplinary process has been stalled at the request of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

The DPP asked for the proceedings to be delayed until criminal prosecutions linked to the collapse of Anglo Irish Bank are completed. Ernst & Young said it would "vigorously defend" itself against the claims.

Ernst & Young is also facing unprecedented legal action from IBRC in relation to its audit work at the former Anglo Irish Bank. The firm said it would defend itself against any action.

Another new board member at the National Theatre is accountant Donall Curtin, a former board member at the disastrous Dublin Docklands Authority. Curtin, whose wife was a senior executive at Anglo Irish Bank, served on the board of the quango as it lurched into the catastrophic €412m buyout of the now derelict Glass Bottle site in Ringsend in 2006. Curtin was one of the board members consulted on the deal via telephone conference at which it was decided to proceed with the transaction.

"Paul Smith and Donall Curtin were appointed to the board in 2013 following their recommendation for appointment by a Selection Committee," according to an Abbey spokesman. This committee was made up of Abbey chairman Bryan McMahon, Pat Moylan, chair of The Arts Council, and John Fairleigh.

"Board members are not remunerated for their services as board members," according to an Abbey Theatre spokesman, adding: "Board members do not receive free or discounted tickets."

Sunday Independent

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