Wednesday 13 December 2017

Former risk officer likes to slip under media radar

Former Anglo director Willie McAteer at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court yesterday
Former Anglo director Willie McAteer at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court yesterday
Sarah Stack

Sarah Stack

FOR a man with such a powerful position in Anglo Irish Bank, William McAteer's role in the loan for shares deal almost went under the radar.

Quiet and unassuming, he remained the invisible man during the lengthy trial.

His barrister Patrick Gageby seemed to take the same understated approach.

The leading criminal barrister drew little attention to himself or his client over the past 11 weeks.

On the very rare occasion Mr Gageby did rise to his feet, he practically had to remind the jury who he was and why he was there.

Donegal-born William McAteer was Anglo's director of group finance and chief risk officer when the loan for shares deal was implemented and executed.

He told gardai he "certainly wasn't instrumental" in the scheme – but he did concede that he was aware of the "broad transaction" and instructed his team "to make sure everything was done properly".

Under arrest, he still remained as vague about what he knew or didn't know.

"I could have signed off on them but I could also have been on holidays," he replied when asked if he approved the Maple 10 loans.

But McAteer had been aware of, and involved in, the Quinn unwind in 2008 and was the man who dealt directly with Morgan Stanley, the global investment house, on how to tackle the issue.

He was in Anglo's headquarters on St Patrick's Day when €20m was transferred to cover Quinn's margin calls.

And on Good Friday he went to the home of the Financial Regulator, Patrick Neary, with a schedule of Quinn's contracts-for-difference positions at the time.

He also travelled overseas with then chief executive David Drumm in a bid to attract investment from sovereign wealth funds, blue chip banks and US investors, as the bank bled hundreds of millions to cover Sean Quinn.

When he resigned from the board and the bank in January 2009, he was the fourth casualty of a financial scandal that ultimately led to the collapse of Anglo and it being nationalised.

The chartered accountant had earned €1.4m in the year before the bank was bailed out by the State and he also held an extensive portfolio of shares.

But the stress and strain of the legal proceedings were clearly etched on McAteer's face during his trial.

Almost every day – almost 50 of them – his wife Maria diligently remained by his side, the pair slipping away quietly to have lunch in the confines of the Criminal Courts.

But he would never have been in the dock of it wasn't for the actions of Sean Quinn, Mr Gageby argued.

Irish Independent

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