Cantillon: Rival bankers should be grateful to Anglo

David Drumm, chief executive and Sean Fitzpatrick, chairman Anglo Irish Bank at the Company’s AGM in 2006. Photograph: Alan Betson

David Drumm, chief executive and Sean Fitzpatrick, chairman Anglo Irish Bank at the Company’s AGM in 2006. Photograph: Alan Betson

Wed, Jul 3, 2013, 21:32

The brashness of Anglo Irish Bank was always part of how the outside world reacted to it and that is all the more true now that we have been privy to private conversations that took place within the bank around the time of the 2008 meltdown. John Bowe’s rendition of Deutschland über Alles is like one of those masterful moments in a movie where a number of themes and storylines combine in one, powerful scene that you can’t help commenting on repeatedly after you have left the cinema. It has that quality of being at one and the same time surprising and just what the plot called for.

You have to wonder whether, among those who are lost in admiration for the awfulness of what has emerged, are the former executives of our other financial institutions who, because of the prominence of Anglo in the ongoing debate, are able, to an extent, to keep themselves out of the firing line.

Michael Fingleton, for instance, comes to mind. Presumably he hasn’t enjoyed reading newspapers or listening to the radio much for the past five years or so, but all in all you could argue he has received a gentle enough time of it considering the €5 billion plus cost to the public of paying for the debacle that was his Irish Nationwide.

You also have to wonder how senior figures in AIB from the boom years have reacted to the Anglo tapes. Such thoughts came to mind with yesterday’s report that its losses in 2012 (€3.8 billion) were such that it came fifth in the 2012 global league table of banking disasters.

In terms of opprobrium, AIB, which has cost the exchequer in the region of €20 billion, has been treated reasonably gently over recent years. Arrogance rather than brashness was the impression created by AIB in the years up to the crash, and indeed the period thereafter.

You’d have to wonder what kind of conversations its senior management were having at around the time that David Drumm was entertaining fellow Anglo executives with disrespectful parodies of the financial regulator. Pretty choice, you’d have to suspect, even if they didn’t reach the artistic heights of Bowe’s Deutschland über Alles.

Not many people feel grateful towards the beast that was Anglo Irish Bank. But some might.

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