Cantillon

Tue, Oct 9, 2012, 01:00

Inside the world of business

Complex Anglo Irish Bank affair set to run . . . and run

THERE WERE a number of cases, both criminal and civil, before the courts yesterday relating to Anglo Irish Bank and details emerging suggest that it could be some time before they reach an end.

At the Criminal Courts of Justice, former Anglo executives Seán FitzPatrick, Pat Whelan and Willie McAteer received the books of evidence. To say they are voluminous is an understatement. Each book, which is identical for each of the accused, runs to nine volumes and fills three boxes.

Down the road in the Four Courts, interesting issues were arising over the possible sequencing of civil proceedings involving Anglo and former executives in light of the criminal cases.

FitzPatrick and Whelan told the High Court they are concerned that the action due to start on October 16th against Anglo’s former head of Irish lending Tom Browne may conflict with their criminal case.

Both men have been subpoenaed by Browne to testify in his defence against Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, formerly Anglo.

Tomorrow, Mr Justice Peter Kelly will hear the application by FitzPatrick and Whelan to have the trial against Browne put back.

Then there is an examination of FitzPatrick’s financial situation in the bankruptcy courts which his lawyers are trying to stop as they could also prejudice the criminal case against him. Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne has asked his lawyers to set out how and why this is so.

Disciplinary hearings by the Chartered Accountants Regulatory Board into FitzPatrick, McAteer and two others have already been postponed on a request by the Director of Public Prosecutions as they could prejudice criminal cases.

And yesterday the Commercial Court was told that the action taken by the family of businessman Seán Quinn against the bank could take nine months from a provisional start date next April.

The Garda investigations into the events leading to the collapse of Anglo will be four years old in early 2013 and the criminal prosecutions have only just begun.

If they take precedence, it will be years before civil cases emerging from the fall-out of Anglo’s collapse in 2009 are fully resolved.

Minister likely to call time on tardy CIÉ and those overdue accounts

IT DOESN’T look like Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar is willing to extend the publication date for CIÉ’s 2011 accounts until the end of January next year.

The State-owned public transport group was due to publish its accounts at the end of last month, a date set when Varadkar granted the group its first extension earlier this year.

This time around, his department says that the Minister does not favour a further extension of the duration sought by CIÉ and plans to discuss the matter with its chairwoman, Vivienne Jupp.

You could hardly blame him.

CIÉ has had one extension. It is now seeking a second that could well see it publishing 2011 accounts in 2013. If CIÉ were a privately held, unquoted, limited company, it might be acceptable for it to seek one extension. If it were a plc, it would be running a serious risk to seek one, let alone two, extensions.

But CIÉ is neither. It is a State-owned group, made up of three businesses, that provide vital services. Not only that, its last, and now very out-of-date, accounts show that the exchequer gave it €288 million to fulfill its public service obligations.

This year it received €36 million in emergency funding from the Government to allow it fullfil those same obligations. Given this level of support, it has a clear obligation of its own to be upfront with the public about the state of its finances.

The company has not given a particularly satisfactory explanation for the second extension. A statement issued yesterday says that the board requires “additional time to assure themselves that appropriate plans for the long term financial sustainability and funding is in place for the company”.

This is pretty garbled, but one interpretation is that the board believes the company does not have enough cash to sustain itself for the long-term. If that is the case, it is not good enough to delay the publication of its accounts.

On the contrary, it is a very good reason for publishing them expeditiously. Let’s hope the Minister makes sure that this happens without any more delay.

Dim view of accountancy jollies

ANY DAY now invites will start to issue from the big accountancy firms to their “alumni” inviting them to various Christmas lunches, drinks receptions and other festive jollies.

These seemingly innocent offers of shared seasonal cheer actually have a dark purpose warns the United Kingdom’s Competition Commission, which has honed in on the fact that 66 per cent of chief financial officers and 60 per cent of of UK audit committee chairs had once worked for one of the big four accountancy firms – PwC, Deloitte, KPMG and Ernst Young.

These same firms received 99 per cent of the audit fees paid by FTSE 100 companies in 2010.

Could there be a link between this state of affairs and the efforts the big firms go to in order to maintain links with former employees through alumni networks?

The Competition Commission certainly seems to think so.

“It is possible that this familiarity will make them more favourably disposed to the appointment of a Big Four rather than a non-Big-Four firm . . . on the other hand, it could make them less aware of the quality and experience of the non-Big-Four firms,” it warns.

Comparable data is not available for the Irish market. But it would be surprising indeed if the Irish practices of the global firms had much to learn from their London counterparts when it comes to networking.

Quote of the day

"The euro area now is equipped with a permanent and effective firewall" – Jean-Claude Juncker, speaking after euro zone finance ministers formally inaugurated the European Stability Mechanism

Today

Treasury Holdings, the property group of developers Richard Barrett and Johnny Ronan, and 16 associated companies face a liquidation hearing in the High Court


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