David Drumm faces financial ruin after judge rejects ‘so stupid’ defence

Analysis: judge says former banker ‘adept in testimony intended to deflect, misdirect, avoid, fabricate’

It wasn't the decision by a US bankruptcy judge to leave former Anglo Irish Bank chief David Drumm on the hook for €10.5 million in debts that was so startling but the judge's devastating assessment of the former banker.

US Bankruptcy Judge Frank Bailey peppers his 122-page ruling with withering findings of Mr Drumm's attempts to pull the wool over the eyes of his creditors about asset transfers to his wife Lorraine in 2008 and 2009 and his failure to disclose in full to the court all information about his finances.

According to the judge, Mr Drumm was “not remotely credible;” his conduct was “knowing and fraudulent,” and his statements to the Boston bankruptcy court were “replete with knowingly false statements, failures to disclose, efforts to misdirect and outright lies.”

On many of Mr Drumm’s excuses for his failure to list hundreds of thousands of euro and dollars worth of cash and property transfers to his wife from September 2008, as the banking crisis struck, the judge simply didn’t believe him.


The former Anglo chief had tried to blame innocent mistakes by him or his advisers for failing to list the transfers to his wife in court documents.

In one section of his ruling, the judge teases out why Mr Drumm failed to disclose all asset transfers in the original sworn statements he made to the court when he petitioned for bankruptcy in October 2010.

The judge found that before and during the trial Mr Drumm answered this question five times with a total of four different answers:

- he didn’t remember or know what went wrong;

- he thought that he only had to include property transfers;

- he completely forgot about the cash and property transfers;

- he “must’ve read it as being property like whatever real estate.”

“The overall sense is of a man casting about for any plausible answer but the truth,” the judge concluded.

“The variety and inconsistency of his diverse answers, and the lack of conviction with which he delivered each, undercut whatever credibility any one of them might have enjoyed had it stood alone.”

Mr Drumm made much during his trial at his shock when he learned at a meeting of creditors on April 1st, 2011 - just over five months after he filed his original bankruptcy statements in court - that he should have included the cash transfers to his wife in his filings to the court.

He testified that he felt “absolutely devastated” and “in a state of panic” when he learned this. The judge didn’t buy it.

Mr Drumm’s “expressions of surprise” in emails to his advisers after the April 1st meeting were “not genuine but affected, for show, when Mr Drumm realised that he would have to explain his omissions,” said the judge.

The characterisation of a $250,000 transfer from Lorraine to her husband in 2009 as a “loan” to help him secure an investor visa to live work in the US was rejected by the judge.

He described the “loan” as “a fiction” and “an accounting treatment invented after the fact.”

“There was never an intra-spousal loan or payment on any such loan, just outright transfers between the sources,” the judge said.

The fact that there was no obligation to repay the money at any time and no accounting for advances and payments “showed it not to have been a true loan at all, just a transfer with a false label,” he said.

In an exchange with one of his advisers, Drumm asked that the make of his cars (Mercedes) be removed from a draft of what would be public court filings so that the “media can go fish.”

This, the judge said, illustrated that Mr Drumm wasn’t a “mere passive and obedient receiver of advice.”

“Drumm showed great concern about details, appearances and minimising the richness of his profile,” said Judge Bailey.

The judge rejected Mr Drumm’s “so stupid” defence: Mr Drumm argued that no one would be so stupid as to attempt what he was accused of, knowing that he will forfeit a chance to walk away from $11 million in debt.

To consider this argument, the judge delved deep into Mr Drumm’s character. He described him as a “quick thinker, adept in testimony intended to deflect, misdirect, avoid, fabricate.”

That Mr Drumm misunderstood what he was supposed to have disclosed in his original bankruptcy statements to the court as to some transfers and “simply forgot several others - the very matters about which he was most concerned in this case…. was exceedingly implausible,” the judge said.

“I have no trouble finding him capable of the kind of stupidity of which he stands accused,” said the judge.

On the reasons for the transfers, the judge questioned Mrs Drumm’s request for money - “like a million euro,” she told Mr Drumm - on the basis that she was concerned she could see a future without him as their marriage was severely strained and the 2008 banking crisis was putting stress on his health.

She wanted money for herself and her children.

“As for Mrs Drumm, I do not believe that she was motivated by a need for protection from possible alienation from Drumm any more than she was motivated by a fear of Drumm’s creditors,” said the judge.

Both were “motivated first and foremost” by a desire to shelter their assets from seizure by Mr Drumm’s creditors, especially Anglo, he said.

The court was only required to find a single count out of 52 objections presented to the judge to deny Mr Drumm a discharge from his debts. In the end, the judge found 30 counts, finding “a wide preponderance of evidence” that he knowingly and fraudulently omitted asset transfers.

“Drumm is intelligent, very sophisticated in the kinds of accounting and financial issues he was addressing in [his bankruptcy statements], meticulous, involved in the details of his bankruptcy filing, controlling, not one who would simply turn these matters over to counsel to handle for him,” said the judge.

“Over a period of two years, while insolvent and facing legal action on $11 million of debt by IBRC, he had carefully transferred considerable value in cash and real estate to Mrs Drumm, to keep it from IBRC.”

Mr Drumm is facing financial ruin but, on the basis of the judgment, he has only himself to blame for failing - as the former banker put it at trial - to “get naked in public” by disclosing everything to the bankruptcy court.