Friday 24 November 2017

Anglo trial painted a slapstick picture of panicked executives chasing investors

David Drumm
David Drumm
Martina Devlin

Martina Devlin

UNTIL recently two former executives of Anglo Irish Bank, Willie McAteer and Patrick Whelan, could be filed under the 'anonymous banker' category.

No longer.

Presumably, the two former Anglo executives have views on the David Drumm-shaped hole at the centre of the trial. As for Drumm, it's a safe bet that he has been transfixed by the case at the Circuit Criminal Court in Dublin, watching from his home on the other side of the Atlantic.

Yesterday's verdicts may have left him apprehensive about his future. The bank's former chief executive – whose expletive-ridden conversations featured on the Anglo tapes – had his name invoked often during the trial. And no wonder.

He was head of the bank when the Maple 10 plan was cooked up. A number of those Maple 10 businessmen gave evidence during the trial and a picture verging on slapstick emerged of panicked Anglo executives chasing developers overseas, briefcases bulging with papers to sign.

Anglo had a reputation for looking after its customers, with golf trips abroad and other treats. Senior staff members were encouraged to socialise with clients as part of its 'relationship management' culture with developers, which helps to explain why takers were found for the Maple 10 device.

Whatever Drumm knows about that unsavoury episode in Anglo's history, he's not sharing. Not willingly, anyhow. Gardai have been unable to quiz him because he is on foreign soil. They can only seek his extradition if the DPP directs there is evidence to charge him with a crime. Perhaps now, in the wake of the McAteer and Whelan convictions, a case may be made for an extradition order.

As the bank was on the brink of falling apart more than five years ago, Drumm relocated to the US with his family, claiming he couldn't earn a living in Ireland. Those forced onto the Live Register or obliged to emigrate might say: "Join the club."

Even now, the Anglo saga is far from approaching the final curtain – yesterday's verdicts are nowhere near the finale. The wheels of justice continue to grind along.

McAteer and Whelan received guilty verdicts on 10 of 16 counts, but the jury found them not guilty on six charges relating to Quinn family loans.

Drumm's name was mentioned in his absence by various witnesses, including former chief financial officer Matt Moran, who was testifying under immunity.

Moran said Anglo executives ran through several plans to denude Quinn of his stake in the bank before plumping for the Maple 10 stratagem. He claimed Drumm later said he had spoken to the Financial Regulator about the deal, before giving a thumbs-up gesture.

It is unlikely that Drumm is making too many thumbs-up signals these days. Currently, he has his hands full with his bankruptcy hearing, which is finally scheduled to take place in Boston on May 21 – some three-and-a-half-years after he first filed for bankruptcy over millions of euro in unpaid loans to him from Anglo Irish Bank.

Other witnesses included former Financial Regulator Patrick Neary. It was a strange experience to watch him emerge into the spotlight again, as underwhelming in court as he was in an office applying light-touch regulation.

While the judge directed the jury to ignore what the former Financial Regulator said, it was undeniably interesting to hear his testimony. It corroborated what is already known about his tenure in financial regulation: he was all at sea about what was happening in Anglo Irish Bank and failed to ask relevant questions. Incompetence doesn't affect the size of a public servant's pension, however.

It was noticeable that Seanie FitzPatrick, paying close attention to Neary's evidence, began to relax and look a little more confident than he had at the outset. FitzPatrick was found not guilty on all charges.

But back to McAteer and Whelan. Donegal-born McAteer is famous as the "Willie" mentioned in a conversation with Neary.

Leaked Anglo documents published five years ago recall a key conversation in September 2008 – when the bank was struggling to survive – between Neary and McAteer.

McAteer, then finance director, told the regulator he would be "managing" the bank's balance sheets at year end.

"Fair play to you, Willie," Neary is reported to have said.

McAteer subsequently resigned when the extent of the bank's problems came to light.

Whelan, by comparison, who was heavily involved in lending to large developers, stayed on at the bank for up to a year after most of the key figures had departed.

Irish Independent

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