Solicitor denies telling Anglo that Maple 10 deal was legal

Lawyer was not aware money was being loaned to Maple 10 to buy shares

Robert Heron told Dublin Circuit Criminal Court he was not aware money was being lent to 10 wealthy clients – the Maple 10. Photograph: PA

Robert Heron told Dublin Circuit Criminal Court he was not aware money was being lent to 10 wealthy clients – the Maple 10. Photograph: PA

Tue, Apr 29, 2014, 01:00

A solicitor who advised Anglo Irish Bank as it planned the “Project Maple” share-buying deal in July 2008 has denied he told the bank it was legal.

Robert Heron, formerly of Matheson Ormsby Prentice, told Dublin Circuit Criminal Court he was not aware money was being lent to 10 wealthy clients – the Maple 10 – to buy the bank’s shares in a plan to unwind businessman Seán Quinn’s stake in Anglo.

He was giving evidence at the sentence hearing of two former Anglo directors, William McAteer and Pat Whelan, who were found guilty of providing unlawful loans to the Maple 10 to buy the bank’s shares. The men were found not guilty of providing unlawful loans to six members of the Quinn family. The bank’s former chairman, Seán FitzPatrick, was acquitted of all charges.

Judge Martin Nolan ruled during the trial legal advice could be a mitigating factor in considering his sentence.

A number of Anglo employees and Maple 10 investors told the trial they were assured the bank had obtained legal advice before the €600 million deal went through, and they took comfort from this.

Fiachre O’Neill, former head of compliance, told the trial he outlined the deal to Mr Heron.

Yesterday, Mr Heron said the advice he gave Anglo in early July 2008 related to loans to Quinn family members only. He said he provided his advice over the phone and only gave a written summary when the bank asked for it after the deal was executed.

Judge Nolan suggested the legal advice was “if you’re happy with it, I’m happy with it”.

“What’s the point in consulting at all with a solicitor if that is the advice that’s given here?” he asked.

Mr Heron said he had no recollection of a conference call on the eve of the transaction with Morgan Stanley, who had asked to speak to him as part of “due diligence” before putting the plan into action.

Brendan Grehan SC, for Whelan, pointed out others on the call had taken notes and they believed Mr Heron had advised the deal fell within an exception to the general ban on companies lending for the purchase of their own shares.