Wednesday 17 January 2018

Anglo Irish: Pensions of former bosses targeted

Private eyes hired to hunt for hidden assets

Emmet Oliver and Joe Brennan

ANGLO Irish Bank is to target the multi-million euro pensions of its former directors as it tries to recover €155m in outstanding loans for the taxpayer.

It has also emerged that the bank's new management team has hired private detectives to track down hidden assets belonging to former top management in remote locations all over the world. The scale of Anglo's woes was laid bare this week when it emerged that it would cost up to €22bn to bail out the biggest corporate failure in Irish history.

Public fury continued to mount over the revelation that the embattled lender had set aside €100m to cover bad loans to former directors.

But Tanaiste Mary Coughlan vowed yesterday that disgraced ex-directors from the bank would be vigorously chased for the outstanding loans. The nationalised bank has decided that pension schemes are now 'fair game', even though traditionally these have been considered a no-go area for banks and other creditors.

Earlier attempts to recover money by seeking charges over property, houses and shares of ex-directors have not produced enough, the bank believes.

The private detectives are hoping to discover previously unknown assets owned by ex-directors across the globe, which could include properties, stakes in companies or shares.

Some of the assets former directors invested in are well- known, including the 25pc stake ex-Anglo chairman Sean FitzPatrick and former director Lar Bradshaw took in a Nigerian oil well. While this is moving close to production, geopolitical tensions in the region could impact when it comes on stream.

The pension pots of senior bankers are believed to be among the largest in the country -- for example, former Irish Nationwide chief executive Michael Fingleton had a pension scheme believed to contain €27m.

It is not known what pension plans the bank may target, but among those with outstanding loans are Mr FitzPatrick, Mr Bradshaw, former chief executive David Drumm and the former finance chief Willie McAteer.

Anglo is keen to find new ways to recover some of the money owed as it believes at least €109m of the €155m in director's loans may never be repaid, leaving the taxpayer suffering the loss.

The Irish Independent understands the bank believes it can take charges over the self-directed or self-managed pension schemes of ex-directors, but may face difficulties in taking charges on standard occupational pension schemes.

However, the bank has pledged to recover as much money as it can.

The lender unveiled a €12.7bn loss for the 15 months to the end of December, after writing down €15.1bn of toxic loans to developers.

Finance Minister Brian Lenihan agreed to pump €8.3bn into Anglo as a result, in order to fill a massive hole in its balance sheet.

While the European Commission ruled this week to rush through the emergency rescue aid, it has now decided to launch an in-depth investigation into all the money that Anglo has received to date.

The Government had to pump €4bn into the group last summer after a massive loss for the first six months of its financial year virtually wiped out its reserves pot.

Mr Lenihan told a shocked Dail on Tuesday that Anglo may still need a further €10bn. Anglo's new chief executive Mike Aynsley said that the much-higher-than-feared figure was partly down to the National Asset Management Agency slapping a massive 50pc discount on the first batch of loans it is taking over from the bank.

A decision this week by the country's new head of financial regulation, Matthew Elderfield, to make all banks hold much more cash in reserve has also driven the huge capital requirement.

Irish Independent

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