Analysis: Confusion and delusion of final months of 2008 evident in content of latest batch

Tapes bring Con Horan of the Central Bank and Ann Nolan, second secretary in the financial services division of the Department of Finance, into the picture

Patrick Honohan, governor of the Central Bank:  reiterated his view that contacts between the regulator and the banks it was supervising were too deferential

Patrick Honohan, governor of the Central Bank: reiterated his view that contacts between the regulator and the banks it was supervising were too deferential

Mon, Jul 8, 2013, 10:30

The latest instalment of the Anglo tapes highlights yet again just how the various parties involved in the financial crisis were at sea between September and December of 2008, the crucial months when the fate of Anglo Irish Bank was sealed.

One taped conversation between former Anglo chief executive David Drumm and senior colleague John Bowe in the weeks before the State’s bank guarantee sees them going backwards and forwards, discussing how much is left in the kitty and how many days it will last.

It is akin to listening to war-weary military commanders trying to count how many troops they had left after another lost battle and trying to convince themselves that they could still win the fight.

For the first time the tapes bring Con Horan of the Central Bank and Ann Nolan, second secretary in the financial services division of the Department of Finance, into the picture.

Horan had responsibility for supervising Anglo and, in a conversation from October 2008, asks Bowe to visit him for “15 to 20 minutes this afternoon” about concerns it might have been abusing the State’s bank guarantee in an effort to raise funding to shore up its balance sheet.


Killing the goose
Horan is concerned Anglo’s activities in the market could kill the “goose that laid the golden egg”.

In an interview on RTÉ Radio One yesterday, Central Bank governor Patrick Honohan reiterated his view that contacts between the regulator and the banks it was supervising were too deferential. “I hope it’s not the same attitude about the regime we have in place now,” he added.

It should be pointed out that he made no reference to Horan in this context. Horan could not be contacted for comment yesterday.

He has been on secondment to the European Banking Authority in London since April 2011.

In the case of Nolan, the tapes detail a rather tedious conversation with Bowe from December 23rd, 2008, about Anglo being downgraded by a ratings agency. They talk about how exhausting the previous few months had been and Nolan double-checks she has Bowe’s number in case of emergency over the Christmas break .

Anglo was nationalised the following month but there’s no hint of that from the transcript. Nolan signs off by wishing Bowe a “Happy Christmas”. It might well have just been a default sign-off by her, given the time of year, but it doesn’t read too well in print five years on given what we now know.

The tapes reveal some interesting information about the actions of Denis Casey, the former group chief executive of Irish Life & Permanent.

Mr Casey and IL&P’s then chairman Gillian Bowler met Anglo executives at the Westin Hotel in Dublin in September 2008. Anglo was looking for billions of euro in funding to help shore up its balance sheet, depleted by an outflow of funds.

While Bowler is described by Drumm in conversation with Bowe as “listening” to their pleas, Casey stonewalled them.

Casey resigned from IL&P in February 2009 after it emerged that the bank had participated in transactions with Anglo Irish Bank that resulted in billions of euro transferring from IL&P. These included deposits of €4 billion made on September 30th, 2008, which were withdrawn the following day.


Casey’s motivation
Was Casey merely keeping his cards close to his chest? Did he support these transactions or was he persuaded by other senior members of the IL&P hierarchy to support the transfers to Anglo? Why did he resign at the time but not Bowler?

These and so many other questions remain to be fully answered by the parties involved.