Former Central Bank adviser gets testy in Malta

Joe Gavin, now head of island’s financial regulator, cuts interview short over questioning

Corporate lawyer Joe Gavin, one of a swathe of external hires brought in to help rehabilitate the Central Bank of Ireland post the 2008 financial crash, faced his share of trying moments as the organisation's general counsel between 2010 and 2015.

Gavin's LinkedIn profile highlights how he was responsible during that time for a number of projects, including the liquidation of Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, formerly Anglo Irish Bank, the State's international bailout programme, and various pieces of legislation and court applications aimed at stabilising the Irish financial sector during the period.

You'd have thought that after all that, an interview with a reporter in Malta, where Gavin was appointed in July as head of the country's financial regulator, should have been a walk in the park.

Not quite. The Times of Malta reported in recent days how Gavin walked away from an interview with the media organisation, before returning to the table and, then, minutes later, cancelling the entire sit-down, after taking objection to the line of questioning from the reporter.

Gavin's appointment as chief executive of the Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA) came as it continues to reel from three local lenders needing to have their licences revoked in recent years, and as the island nation grapples with having been added in June by the Financial Action Task Force, the global money laundering and terrorist financing watchdog, to its "grey list" of countries under increased monitoring.

Gavin refused to say, when asked, if he had looked into the MFSA licensing process to understand if any failures and lessons from potential failures in the system could be drawn.

"I am happy to scrap the interview. Kill it. Sorry," he said, after facing 17 minutes of questioning, according to a report – and a transcript of the testy exchange – posted on the Times of Malta's website.

An attempt to restart the interview proved short lived. The whole exercise come to an abrupt end minutes later as Gavin took exception to questions about whether he has brought a “revolving door” policy to restrict regulators from taking up jobs in firms that they regulate.

“I think we might as well cancel the interview. I think that was a failure,” he said.

Something of an understatement in the circumstances.

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