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Colm McCarthy: Scathing report should be a wake-up call for Irish banks

There has finally been an official report into one of the banks that failed in Ireland. The Irish subsidiary of the large UK bank HBOS was called Bank of Scotland (Ireland) and was one of the architects of the Irish credit bubble. The bank, which was bailed out by UK rather than Irish taxpayers, introduced the tracker mortgage to Ireland – promptly copied by the other mortgage lenders and now a major millstone round their necks. HBOS has written off over 40 per cent of its lending in Ireland, and counting. Last week saw the release of a lacerating report from the UK's Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards into the whole HBOS affair. The report names names and attributes the downfall of HBOS in its UK home market and in its Irish and Australian subsidiaries to management and corporate governance failures. The commission chairman, Conservative MP Andy Tyrie, concluded that HBOS "failed because the management got it completely wrong". They were delusional to the end about the scale of potential losses, and the report's language borders on the unparliamentary, accusing board and management of "wilful blindness". The catastrophe should be seen as "a case study of how not to run a bank".

Meanwhile, in the United States, the detailed investigations into financial failures grind mercilessly on. Last week also saw the release of the examiner's report into the collapse of the securities firm MF Global, which is being investigated also by the FBI, and the details of the firm's collapse, including the identities of the people responsible, are now firmly in the public domain.

In Cyprus, where the entire economy has been laid low by the banking crash, the country's president has appointed three retired supreme court judges to conduct an inquiry into what went wrong, covering bank management, regulators and, interestingly, political decisions. The three judges have been asked to report to the attorney general inside three months, with a view to prosecutions if appropriate.

All of which contrasts sharply with the infinitely more leisurely and congenial approach adopted in Ireland. After one of the biggest banking crashes that has ever occurred anywhere in the world, there has not been a single official report on any of the bank failures. Nor have any of the banks seen fit to share their internal inquiries with their own unfortunate shareholders.

Indeed, we do not even know if proper internal inquiries have been conducted. Now that Andy Tyrie's committee in London has finished with HBOS, perhaps he could be offered a nixer over the summer months in Dublin?

Irish Independent