Guarantee based on belief banks had €500bn assets

 

The Government believed the risk to the taxpayer from its €400 billion bank guarantee scheme was offset by €500 billion in assets held by the banks, according to financial documents released by the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee this morning.

A briefing document compiled by Department of Finance officials for the Taoiseach, dated September 30th - the day the guarantee was announced - suggested the financial exposure to the taxpayer was mitigated by a "very substantial buffer" of assets.

The asset quality in the financial institutions, the document said, was good with a strong concentration in residential mortgages with a relatively low loan-to-value ratio.

"There is therefore, a significant buffer before there is any question of credit impairments on the Exchequer on foot of the guarantee," the briefing note said.

"While Ireland along with all developed economies has experienced a sharp decline in its property market there is very significant capacity within the institutions to absorb any losses."

The guarantee was "not given lightly" but was necessary, on the "strong advice" of the Central Bank and the Financial Regulator, to deal with the unprecedented disruption in international markets.

"As far as the question of "moral hazard" is concerned, it will be a priority for the Government to ensure that the highest regulatory standards and standards of corporate governance apply in all of the institutions concerned including in relation to lending practices to safeguard the interests of taxpayers against any risk of financial loss," it concluded.

Another document revealed former financial regulator Patrick Neary told Taoiseach Brian Cowen that Anglo Irish was in good health only days before the Government introduced the bank guarantee on September 29th, 2008.

Mr Neary told the Taoiseach "there is no evidence to suggest Anglo is insolvent on a going concern basis - it is simply unable to continue on the current basis from a liquidity point of view".

The document, dated September 25th, 2008, states that various intervention possibilities were discussed at the meeting including ordinary liquidity support, SLS-type schemes, guarantees, nationalisation and bad bank approach.

The urgency of the situation was emphasised by Kevin Cardiff at the Department of Finance. The Attorney General and the Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan were also present at the meeting.

Representatives from Merrill Lynch, the Central Bank, PwC, Arthur Cox, NTMA and Goldman Sachs were also present.

Speaking at the publication of the Central Bank's annual report in Dublin today, Governor Patrick Honohan stressed that Mr Neary was not the only person who made mistakes in the run-up to the recession.

The PAC published some 50 documents today detailing contingency planning that occurred in the run-up to the State bank guarantee being issued by the Government.

The documents from the department, the Central Bank and the Financial Regulator’s office relate to the period in the lead-up to the decision to guarantee Irish financial institutions on September 30th, 2008. The files are substantial but some sensitive information has been redacted.