Business Irish

Monday 18 December 2017

Golden Circle outside scope of banking probe

Commission won't seek to spotlight individuals

Laura Noonan

THE banking commission of investigation is avoiding the most contentious issues of the banking crisis, including Anglo's Golden Circle share-support deal.

The probe is focusing its energies on "systems" rather than on the actions of individuals, and has yet to speak to several prominent figures in the banking collapse, the Irish Independent has learned.

Sources also revealed that the commission has had no contact with Sean Quinn, whose stake-building in Anglo Irish Bank led to the creation of the Golden Circle and was blamed for a collapse in the bank's share price.


Former senior bankers say they have had only minimal contact with the inquiry, while banks say the probe's interest has been almost exclusively in "systems rather than people".

"There's no question of the report naming and shaming anyone, unless you mean naming and shaming individual banks, not based on their interaction with us anyway," said one banking source. Back in June, Finance Minister Brian Lenihan said the commission should "of course" name and shame those responsible for bringing the banking system to its knees.

The Finance Minister also staunchly defended the decision to establish the commission despite comments from Central Bank Governor Patrick Honohan who questioned the approach.

Established in September, the commission of investigation was billed as the definitive probe into what had gone wrong with the Irish banks and who should be held responsible.

Its work has been shrouded in secrecy after the commission resolved to answer no media inquiries. But several banking sources have confirmed details of their interactions.

One banker said that while the commission had asked for "reams of data", it had shown very little interest in individual transactions or how major clients were dealt with.

Several other banks confirmed this experience. Former bankers have also expressed surprise at the limits of their interaction with the commission and the lack of detailed questioning they were subjected to.

The Irish Independent understands that several key figures in the banking collapse, including Mr Quinn, have had no contact with the commission. Mr Quinn's spokesman declined to comment.

Sources confirmed, however, that the controversial Golden Circle that saw Anglo loan money to 10 developers who bought shares from Mr Quinn was not being probed.

This newspaper has previously revealed that the €7.6bn back-to-back deposit deal by Anglo and Irish Life & Permanent also falls outside the scope of the probe.


"It does raise the question about what they're actually looking at," one source said.

The commission has until mid-March to complete its work.

Several other reports into the banking collapse have also been carried out, most notably one by Prof Honohan and another by economists Klaus Regling and Max Watson.

It was the existence of these reports, coupled with the continued progress of investigations by the Office of Director of Corporate Enforcement and the gardai, that prompted Prof Honohan to question whether the Commission of Investigation was the best approach to take.

Irish Independent

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