“Everybody was gloriously happy” with deal to unwind Quinn holding in Anglo, jury told

When climate changed it was like “1916 in reverse”, counsel for Sean FitzPatrick said

Sat, Apr 12, 2014, 01:31


“Everybody was gloriously happy” with the deal to unwind businessman Seán Quinn’s holding in Anglo Irish Bank until “the climate changed”, counsel for former chairman of the bank Seán FitzPatrick told a jury at the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court yesterday.

Michael O’Higgins SC compared the change of climate to “1916 in reverse”, when those involved were first “spat upon” but then “became heroes”.

Anglo was happy, the financial regulator was “very, very happy” and the “domestic standing group”, which included the regulator and the Department of Finance, was “very, very happy”.

But he said in light of subsequent events, with “viciousness and unfocused anger”, the deal “came to be looked at in a different light”.


‘Unclear’
Mr O’Higgins said it was unclear what the prosecution’s case was. Was it that they had “a ship holed below the water line” and they were “trying to stay afloat and doing their best” but there was inadequate communication and that could be visited on Mr FitzPatrick?

Or was it that these were “dodgy fellas” carrying out “nefarious activity” and this was “people not with hand on heart doing their best” but was “something sinister”?

“If that is the case, how would Mr FitzPatrick, a non-executive director in France on the phone be expected to sniff it out and play detective?” Mr O’Higgins asked.

He said it took the State years to put its case together and it would be putting an “unreasonable burden” on Mr FitzPatrick to expect him to [assemble all the facts of what had happened].

The court had heard Mr FitzPatrick was given some information about the deal to unwind Mr Quinn’s shareholding in Anglo by chief executive of the bank David Drumm in a call on July 9th.

Mr O’Higgins said the prosecution knew that phone call wasn’t “a hill of beans” so they dressed it up to be misleading the market.

But the suggestion that the deal was a share support scheme was a “complete and utter red herring”.

He told the jury they could not conclude on any superficial analysis that because the share price went up afterwards it was indicative of something improper.


Prices
There had been no evidence comparing the prices of other banks at the time, he said.

“You can’t literally say that because the transaction involved some trading in shares then ipso facto the case can be proved,” Mr O’Higgins said.

If it was a genuine loan then there was no cheat. There was no misleading the market because the shares were bought, the transactions and the buyers were real, they could have lost money and the losses had crystallised.

“I am going to acknowledge that it isn’t a great time to be on trial as a banker,” Mr O’Higgins said.

He said when a banker is facing charges, it “inevitably poses questions in light of the general fear and loathing out there” if he will get “a fair trial”.

But, he said, the jury system was “the envy of the free world” and “the reputation of Irish juries is impeccable”.