Business Irish

Tuesday 16 January 2018

The stellar rise and stunning fall of Denis Casey

Denis Casey, former group chief executive, Irish Life & Permanent.
Denis Casey, former group chief executive, Irish Life & Permanent.
Donal O'Donovan

Donal O'Donovan

Before the crash Dubliner Denis Casey was one of the most powerful figures in Irish business.

Though it has been overshadowed by the drama surrounding some of the key figures in the Anglo saga, Casey's fall from grace is hardly less spectacular.

In 2008 his €1.1m-a-year job running the then Irish Life & Permanent Tsb group put him at the top of the Irish corporate pile.

The group, valued at more than €6bn when Casey took the reins in 2007, was the country's only bank-assurance business - meaning it straddled the worlds of mortgages, insurance and pensions and investments.

ILP was smaller than AIB or Bank of Ireland in overall terms - it had less international reach for one thing - but within the confines of the Irish market it was a huge business. In one way or another ILP's businesses reached into almost every household in the country.

Its chief executive was an important figure.

A mark of his status, and personal standing, is that Casey at various times headed up industry groups like Financial Services Ireland, the Insurance Institute of Ireland. He served as a member of the Financial Regulator's own Financial Services Consultative Industry panel.

There is now a good chance that Denis Casey will serve time. Along with co-conspirators Willie McAteer and John Bowe, he is awaiting sentencing as a convicted criminal.

This week the former group chief executive was convicted of a €7.2bn conspiracy to defraud, after the longest criminal trail in Irish history. In the Casey's case the jury took an age to return the verdict, but it's a situation that would have seemed utterly outlandish in 2007 when, aged just 47, he took over as chief executive of stock market-listed Irish Life & Permanent (ILP).

Casey had worked his way through the ranks over a 30-year career.

He joined AIB straight after school at St Kevin's CBS, in Dublin, moving to Irish Life in 1980.

At one stage he collected weekly insurance payments door-to-door from insurance customers, but training as an accountant, he moved swiftly, methodically up the corporate ranks, in what was a fast growing business.

He eventually saw off a field of internal rivals in the race to replace David Went as group chief executive.

Even at his peak Casey kept a relatively low profile, but was known to be bright, ambitious and hardworking. After losing his job in the wake of the banking crisis - which eventually saw ILP nationalised and its best assets sold - Casey went back to school and qualified as a barrister.

During his trial Casey admitted authorising trades that moved billions of euro into Anglo Irish Bank in September 2008, but argued it was done for a wider good - to support a "pillar" financial institution in the Irish banking system - which his lawyers claimed was the agenda of the Central Bank and regulators.

He denied that he knew anything about how Anglo would account for the deposits.

His barrister, Michael O'Higgins SC, told the jury that his client had been duped by Anglo's decision to account for the transactions on the balance sheet while the State said it was inconceivable that a banker of his experience didn't know that Anglo intended to do this.

Irish Independent

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