Sunday 20 January 2019

Sean Fitzpatrick told wife in late 2008 'not to worry as we have a lot of assets', court hears

Catriona Fitzpatrick, wife of Sean Fitzpatrick, pictured leaving the Four Courts. Photo: Collins Courts
Catriona Fitzpatrick, wife of Sean Fitzpatrick, pictured leaving the Four Courts. Photo: Collins Courts

Tim Healy

The wife of former Anglo Chairman Sean Fitzpatrick has told the High Court, after he resigned from Anglo in late 2008, he told her “not to worry”.

“I asked him were we ok and he said we were,” Catriona Fitzpatrick said. “I was a bit worried but I wasn’t unduly worried.”

She said she knew about the collapse of Lehman Brothers in the US in September 2008, that “the world was in turmoil” and it was "a terrible time".

After her husband resigned as non-executive chairman of Anglo in December 2008, she told him she was worried, she said. Her husband had told her she wasn’t to be worried because they had a deposit account in Anglo and we had “a lot of assets”.

She had not asked him what they owed, she said. She agreed her husband told her in 2009 there was an €80m debt.

She understood, as a result of a facility letter of February 2009, they had given whatever securities the bank had looked for and that meant Anglo had no charge related to herself and her children.

Earlier, she said, throughout their 44 year marriage, she left financial dealings to her husband and did not know the detail of their finances and investments but knew the investments were made for the benefit of their family. "I trusted him implicitly."

She agreed none of the 18 assets to which she is making a claim in the proceedings are in the joint names of herself and her husband and they are all in his name but said she had been advised she had a 50pc beneficial interest. She and her husband had jointly borrowed funds to invest in joint ventures often held in the sole name of her husband, she said.

Ms Fitzpatrick was being cross examined by Paul Gardiner SC, for Chris Lehane, the official assignee (OA) in bankruptcy who administered her husband's bankruptcy, in proceedings claiming she is entitled to about €6m in assets, which she claims wee jointly held by the couple before her husband was declared bankrupt in 2010.

Hers is one of three actions being heard by Ms Justice Marie Baker relating to whether she has any interest in assets subject of the bankruptcy.

Mr Fitzpatrick was declared bankrupt with assets of some €47m and debts of €147m and has since exited bankruptcy.

Mrs Fitzpatick has brought proceedings against the OA and her husband (as the bankrupt), claiming she has an entitlement to various assets which include property, shares and bonds.  Mr Lehane has brought his own proceedings against Mrs Fitzpatrick and the couple's three children, David, Jonathan and Sara Fitzpatrick.

Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC), which took over Anglo, has separate related proceedings against Mrs Fitzpatrick, in which it denies she is entitled to claim monies loaned to fund asset investments or that the loans were given on a non-recourse basis to her.

On Thursday, Ms Fitzpatrick told Mr Gardiner her husband had opened a Northern Rock account in her name and gave her forms to sign. She was aware there was €7m in the Northern Rock account and he used that for investments. He did not consult her in advance about those but she had no problem with that because they "worked as a team".

She understood most of their assets were jointly owned but that did not necessarily mean they were in their joint names, she said.

She never knew the extent of the wealth they had accumulated at any period in time "but I knew we were comfortable financially".

She could not recall if she knew in 2003 her husband had transferred half of his shares in Anglo that same year into her name. He had told her he was accumulating a very significant shareholding in the bank and referred to that as "our shares" and she was also aware the shares were increasing in value until 2008. She was aware the value of Anglo shares dropped "quite a lot" in March 2008. Her husband had said he was very worried about that drop but they didn't discuss it in detail.

She was also aware of the State guarantee of the banks in September 2008 but did not discuss that in any detail with her husband. She knew it was a "terrible time" and the bank share price had declined dramatically.

The hearing continues.

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