Tánaiste wary of publishing ODCE FitzPatrick report

Fitzgerald awaiting advice of Attorney General before deciding whether to publish

Sean Fitzpatrick, former chair of Anglo Irish Bank.

Sean Fitzpatrick, former chair of Anglo Irish Bank.

 

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald says she won’t take any action that “would further exacerbate the situation”, as she awaits advice from the Attorney General on publishing a report from the State’s corporate watchdog into the investigation of Sean FitzPatrick.

The Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) has submitted a report to the Government about the recent collapse of the criminal case against Mr FitzPatrick, the former chairman of Anglo Irish Bank.

In a statement accompanying the release of its annual report on Monday, the ODCE said it submitted a report on the case to Ms Fitzgerald, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise, and Innovation on June 23rd.

The report was commissioned by the Minister’s predecessor in the enterprise role, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, who asked for an explanation of the issues that led to the judge directing the jury to find Mr FitzPatrick not guilty.

The ODCE faced heavy criticism in the wake of the acquittal for the manner in which its investigation into issues pertaining to Mr FitzPatrick was conducted, including the shredding of documents and the way witness statements were taken from Anglo’s auditors, EY.

“That report is not, and does not purport to be, the result of an investigation or inquiry. Neither is it, nor does it purport to be, a detailed analysis of every aspect of the underlying investigation,” said the ODCE, which added that people named in the report had not had the chance to respond.

The ODCE said it is its understanding that the report has been sent to the Attorney General, but that it is Ms Fitzgerald’s intention to publish it.

The department confirmed it has sought advice from the Attorney General on whether to publish.

Fair procedures

“It is important that any actions taken are done with full knowledge and in line with fair procedures, due process and natural justice.”

In the ODCE’s annual report, the director Ian Drennan elaborates on issues related to the Fitzpatrick case. He says the ODCE “was simply not equipped at that time to run multiple parallel investigations of the scale and complexity” of the FitzPatrick/Anglo investigation.

He said the ODCE staff who took the EY witness statements were civilians with little training to do so. Other senior staff, including members of the Garda, were tied up with other investigations.

“The inappropriateness of the approach that was subsequently adopted in obtaining those statements was not sufficiently appreciated nor were the attendant risks responded to appropriately,” Mr Drennan said.

“No organisation is perfect and the pursuit of excellence, be it in the area of investigation or otherwise, is an ongoing organisational challenge.”

Meanwhile, the annual report says 11 insolvent-company directors were restricted by the High Court last year. A total of 93 restriction undertakings were obtained, avoiding the need for High Court action.

About 60 cases of excessive directors’ loans were “rectified” with €17 million at stake. The ODCE also says 108 directions were issued in 2016 to directors and companies requesting compliance with company law.

The annual report also confirms that the cost of running the office last year was €2.73 million, or 54 per cent of its allocation. This was a reduction of 11 per cent on the cost the previous year.