Sunday 22 September 2019

Drumms' American dream comes to a shattering end

Disgraced banker was a pillar of his well-heeled Boston community before returning home, writes Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

In October 2015, when David Drumm was locked up in a US jail awaiting extradition to Ireland, relatives, neighbours, colleagues wrote glowing references to the presiding judge attesting to his fine character. His wife, Lorraine, begged Judge Donald Cabell to allow him home to her and their two daughters. He was her "best friend", the "love of her life" and her "rock", she wrote.

Drumm didn't get bail. The former chief executive of Anglo Irish Bank remained in prison until his extradition to Ireland to face the €7.2bn fraud and false accounting charges he was convicted of last week. While his family and American friends didn't sway the judge, they tell their own story about the man who left the sinking ship of the former Anglo Irish Bank to buy into the all-American dream.

According to Lorraine Drumm's letter to Massachusetts Judge Cabell, the family's love affair with America began long before the Anglo debacle, in 1998 when her husband was sent by Anglo to build up the bank's American business.

The couple were "excited" to move to Boston, she wrote. They settled in Sudbury, enrolled their children in local schools. David coached the football team and they were active in the parish. "David and I were sad to leave our home and the life we had built, and the girls were inconsolable as they were taken away from school, friends and home."

Back in Dublin, Drumm surprised his colleagues by landing the job as chief executive. Three years later, he conspired to hide the bank's gaping financial hole with a €7.2bn temporary transfer from Irish Life and Permanent, masking Anglo's deepening insolvency.

Lorraine's letter to Judge Cabell relates the bare facts of their departure from Ireland: "In December 2008, David resigned his position in Ireland and six months later, 2009, we moved to back to Boston. The girls were very happy to be returning home."

She told the judge how they eventually purchased a home in Wellesley, enrolled their children in school. She was a "homemaker" and he "the sole income provider for our family". He worked as a chief investment officer with an office asset management company in New York. They were "aware" for most of 2015 that Drumm could be extradited - and when they read media reports, she says, Drumm contacted lawyers offering to surrender voluntarily.

"David never considered running. He wanted to do the right thing," she wrote. In prison in the US awaiting extradition, he was "devastated to be away from us - and to be causing us so much worry and pain. We are heartbroken to be without him at home".

Their girls had suffered "enormous emotional trauma through this process. We have had to move out of our home on four occasions due to media intrusion. They have as deep a bond with their Dad as any daughter could hope for…"

A woman, a widow, who knew the Drumms for 16 years, wrote: "Lorraine and I have sat for hours and shared our struggles and she has confided much to me," she wrote.

"I have listened as Lorraine has discussed her marriage and her relationship with David. Their marriage has flourished despite the incredible stress it has been under. David's love for his wife and children is paramount. He will never abandon his family."

Other neighbours too commented on Drumm's dedication to his family, his good humour witnessed over rounds of golf, sports days and local events.

The family's local church confirmed their regular attendance. Even his doctor pitched in, praising Drumm while taking a dig at the Irish government. "Through our relationship, I now understand the terrible stresses he has been through this last many years," he wrote. "I am flabbergasted that the Irish government is portraying him as some sort of pariah - this certainly is NOT the David Drumm I have come to know."

His employer promised to keep his job open. Several friends and colleagues pledged their family homes, so confident were they he wouldn't do a runner if he got bail because he would neither leave his family or turn them into fugitives. One colleague recalled Drumm's daughter working as an office assistant one summer, noting how he was so "proud" and "happy" to have her close. Drumm's mother, sisters and brothers, also rallied to his aid, with his mother, then 80, describing as her son as her "rock".

The letters tell one side of David Drumm's story. Not the story of the man who, having broken Ireland's banking laws, began a gradual process of transferring hundreds of thousands in cash and assets to his wife ahead of abandoning the sinking ship and moving to the United States. They moved into a $2m home in Wellesley brought through a trust and the following year, Drumm applied for bankruptcy due to debts of more than €10m.

The judge hearing his bankruptcy case noted in his ruling that the first time Mrs Drumm opened a bank account in her own name in their then 17-year marriage was in September 2008, to take the first cash transfer from her husband of €150,000. Rejecting his bankruptcy application, Judge Frank Bailey found Drumm's statements to be "replete with knowingly false statements, failures to disclose, efforts to misdirect, and outright lies".

Lorraine Drumm has since sold the family home in Wellesley and relocated to a terraced townhouse in Skerries, her husband's hometown. The rest of their properties - including a home in Cape Cod - were sold off as part of his ongoing bankruptcy.

At least Drumm won't have to foot the bill for his trial. He was granted free legal aid. Examining his list of his assets, the judge noted that they "are roughly what one would expect them to be". He was photographed emerging from a 14-reg BMW when he signed on at Balbriggan Garda Station to sign on for bail following his conviction last week. Drumm will be sentenced on June 20, when his family and friends will again have the opportunity to plead for leniency on his behalf.

Sunday Independent

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