Seán FitzPatrick trial: Expert advises against rush to judge ODCE

Prof Niamh Brennan of UCD says ‘big cases are very difficult to prosecute’

Former Anglo Irish Bank chairman Seán FitzPatrick leaving the Dublin Criminal Court. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Former Anglo Irish Bank chairman Seán FitzPatrick leaving the Dublin Criminal Court. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

A corporate governance expert has warned against a “knee-jerk” review of the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) following the acquittal of former Anglo Irish Bank chairman Seán FitzPatrick.

Prof Niamh Brennan of the Quinn School of Business at UCD said decisions should be made once the “hysteria” has died down and she advised “not to throw out the baby with the bathwater”.

The ODCE, which was set up to tackle white-collar crime, is under severe pressure after the judge in the trial of Mr FitzPatrick heavily criticised its investigation into the banker.

In announcing that he was going to direct the jury to acquit Mr FitzPatrick of all charges, Judge John Aylmer said the ODCE had set out to “build or construct a case” against Mr FitzPatrick rather than “investigate the case independently and impartially”.

Prof Brennan said that the Serious Fraud Office in the UK had met similar difficulties in prosecuting white-collar crime.

“This is a very complex situation,” she told RTÉ’s Today with Seán O’Rourke show.

Quality not quantity

Prof Brennan said any review of the office should not be about the number of people it employed but about the quality of the people.

“What is the salary it is offering? Is it attractive? Does it attract people with the right qualifications?”

She said a review – as called for by some politicians – could come up with the conclusion that the remuneration offered was not attracting the right kind of people for the job.

“When it comes to big cases they are very difficult to prosecute.”

Prof Brennan added that once the “knee-jerk” reaction and “hysteria” about the judge’s decision and comments were over there was a need to seriously consider the office.

Niall Collins, Fianna Fáil’s spokesman on jobs, enterprise and innovation, said there was a need to look at the office and its ability to investigate white-collar crime.

He said there could be a perception that the ODCE was capable of prosecuting small companies and that big companies could “walk away”.