Wednesday 20 March 2019

Disgraced banker to snub Dail watchdog

But FitzPatrick could still be 'forced' to face grilling

Senan Molony and Ailish O'Hora

DISGRACED former Anglo Irish Bank chairman Sean FitzPatrick will today snub a special Dail hearing into his dealings -- but he may yet be forced to attend.

Mr FitzPatrick was accused of "thumbing his nose" at the elected representatives of those who now own his former bank.

However, angry TDs pledged to seek new laws to compel the likes of Mr FitzPatrick to answer their questions.

The chairman of the Dail's Economic and Regulatory Affairs Committee warned: "This is not an end to the matter."

Michael Moynihan said he was "deeply disappointed" by Mr FitzPatrick's decision not to attend.

That decision follows a similar refusal by Anglo auditors Ernst & Young, for unspecified legal reasons.

And it comes just days before the publication of the Anglo annual report and the Government report into Anglo's controversial handling of the €7bn 'deposits' from Irish Life & Permanent (IL&P).

Mr FitzPatrick was supposed to appear before the committee this afternoon to face questions about the extraordinary conduct at the now-nationalised institution.

The former banking chief got loans of €87m from the bank itself and TDs were set to ask him about these arrangements.

He was also due to face questions about €300m in loans to 10 investors used to buy the bank's own shares.

But, citing legal reasons, he declined an invitation to attend the meeting at Leinster House.

Labour accused Mr FitzPatrick, who spent a long holiday in South Africa after resigning from Anglo in December, of "thumbing his nose" at the people's representatives.

His refusal to attend the hearing was "simply not acceptable," according to committee member Sean Sherlock (Labour).

"Many questions need to be answered by him, and others, who had the responsibility for running the affairs of Anglo Irish Bank," he said.

Mr Moynihan, meanwhile, said the meeting would have been "a perfect opportunity" to secure answers.

"We need and deserve a full explanation as to what went on at the bank."

Mr Sherlock said the Dail would have to look at the possibility of providing new powers "if senior figures who brought the banking system to the verge of collapse refuse to attend when requested".

Mr Moynihan said Mr Fitzpatrick's declining to appear was not an end to the matter.

"The committee has written to the Government Chief Whip asking that a motion be put before the Dail which would give the committee the authority to compel witnesses to attend its hearings," he said.

These powers already exist for the Dail Public Accounts Committee, he added.

Answer

But a long list of people have failed to attend Dail committee meetings, including the former Financial Regulator Patrick Neary and former FAS chairman Rody Molloy, who attended later.

Mr Moynihan said the committee is determined to pursue this matter until those who were responsible "for mismanaging the activities of the bank are made to answer".

He added that Mr FitzPatrick's "own admitted actions in hiding huge loans" had done enormous damage to the banking system and to Ireland's reputation internationally.

Those actions had also put taxpayers' money at risk, he said.

Mr FitzPatrick was due to be asked to shed some light on the so-called golden circle of 10 business people, whose loans are currently being investigated by the Financial Regulator.

Finance Minister Brian Lenihan will not be revealing the list of names when he publishes his expert report into Anglo Irish Bank later this week.

Meanwhile, the Bank of Ireland will today announced a €1bn mortgage fund for first-time buyers.

On the markets, bank shares continued to slide yesterday.

Financial watchdog needs more teeth: Page 21

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