No minutes taken at six board meetings, says former Anglo Irish Bank secretary

Some 33 board meetings, planned and ad hoc, held in year of financial crisis

 Natasha Mercer, former company secretary of  Anglo Irish Bank, leaving the Circuit Criminal Court yesterday. Photograph: David Sleator

Natasha Mercer, former company secretary of Anglo Irish Bank, leaving the Circuit Criminal Court yesterday. Photograph: David Sleator

Fri, Feb 7, 2014, 01:00

The former company secretary of Anglo Irish Bank has said the board of the bank met on 33 occasions in 2008 and she was not present to take minutes for six of those meetings.

Natasha Mercer told the trial of former Anglo Irish Bank directors William McAteer, Pat Whelan and Seán FitzPatrick that the board normally held eight or 10 scheduled meetings in a year but could also hold ad hoc meetings.

Mr FitzPatrick (65) of Greystones, Co Wicklow, Mr McAteer (63) of Rathgar, Dublin, and Pat Whelan (51) of Malahide, Co Dublin, have been charged with 16 counts of providing unlawful financial assistance to 16 individuals in July 2008 to buy shares in the bank, contrary to section 60 of the Companies Act.

Mr Whelan has also been charged with being privy to the fraudulent alteration of loan facility letters to seven people.

All three men have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Ms Mercer told counsel for the State Úna Ni Raifeartaigh that of the 33 board meetings in 2003 she missed six: on March 18th, March 24th, September 9th and three on September 29th. She said no one acted as secretary at these meetings, but she discussed the recording of the first with Mr McAteer and typed up minutes from his notes.

She gave evidence of the structure of Anglo, agreeing that Mr FitzPatrick was its chairman and a non-executive director while David Drumm was its chief executive officer, an executive director.


Board structure
The jury was shown a graphic of the structure of the Anglo board and Ms Mercer confirmed the name of each member. Mr McAteer, chief risk officer and director of group finance; Mr Whelan, managing director of lending, Ireland; Mr Quilligan, chief executive of Anglo UK; and Mr Drumm were listed as executive directors of the board.

The non-executive directors were listed as Mr FitzPatrick, Michael Jacob, Ned Sullivan, Lar Bradshaw, Fintan Drury (who was replaced during 2008 by Donal O’Connor), Anne Heraty, Noël Harwerth and Gary McGann.

She explained her role in note-taking and preparing agendas for board meetings. She said in advance of preparing an agenda she would first discuss the issues with Mr Drumm and then Mr FitzPatrick. The meetings took place at the bank’s headquarters on St Stephen’s Green, she said.

Under cross-examination by Lorcan Staines, for Mr Whelan, Ms Mercer said she did not have her original handwritten notes from the bank’s board meetings but she would endeavour to get copies.

Asked by Michael O’Higgins SC, for Mr FitzPatrick, if her discussions with his client about the agendas for meetings were about “administrative matters” such as where the board would meet and who might attend, Ms McArdle responded: “Yes, that’s correct.”

Mr O’Higgins went on to say his client was a non-executive director of a significant number of other companies including Greencore, Aer Lingus and Smurfit Kappa, as well as some fund management companies.

Ms Mercer will be recalled to give evidence on other matters in the coming weeks.