David Drumm verdict: US extradition case delayed court reckoning

Most damaging fallout of sit-it-out strategy was five months in maximum-security jail

Former chief executive  of Anglo Irish Bank, David Drumm (51), with an address in Skerries, Co Dublin,  at the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court on Wednesday, as the jury were still deliberating on a verdict in his fraud trial. Photograph: Collins Courts

Former chief executive of Anglo Irish Bank, David Drumm (51), with an address in Skerries, Co Dublin, at the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court on Wednesday, as the jury were still deliberating on a verdict in his fraud trial. Photograph: Collins Courts

 

There could not have been two more starkly contrasting images than David Drumm’s appearance at his bankruptcy trial in the United States in 2014, and how he looked at his first extradition hearing a year and a half later.

In one setting, the Massachusetts bankruptcy court, there was Drumm the well-dressed former chief executive of Anglo Irish Bank, determined to break free of debts of more than €10 million.

In the other, the Dubliner appeared drawn and under great strain as he shuffled in accompanied by two US marshals, wearing ankle shackles and with his hands cuffed behind his back.

Drumm’s decision not to return to Ireland for six years meant that scrutiny of the man who steered Ireland’s third-largest bank during the 2008 financial crisis followed him to his adopted home in Massachusetts.

Remaining in the US delayed Drumm being charged and, ultimately, his trial from proceeding by a number of years as the prosecutions of his former colleagues, including former Anglo chairman Seán FitzPatrick and members of Drumm’s executive team, ran in the Dublin courts. Whereas Drumm left, FitzPatrick stayed to face the music.

On Wednesday, a jury at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court found the former Anglo Irish Bank chief executive guilty on two counts of fraud.

Mr Drumm had denied the two offences linked to his running of the failed Irish lender in 2008. Judge Karen O’Connor has agreed to remand Drumm on bail until June 20th next for sentencing.

Highs and lows

Boston, Drumm’s old haunt, had been a place of highs and lows for the banker. It was the city where he made his mark in the industry, shining at his role in running the bank’s nascent US operation in the early 2000s to the extent that it helped land him the job of chief executive when FitzPatrick moved up to the chairman’s office in 2005.

But the city was also where Drumm faced his most gruelling court battles, unsuccessfully in both cases: against charges of fraudulent transfers in his US bankruptcy and against an attempt to extradite him.

“The Drummer,” as he was known within Anglo, moved to the US in 2009, six months after he had resigned from the bank in December 2008, as the specialised property and business lender was just weeks away from falling into State ownership. It was a place the former Skerries man, his wife and two daughters loved; Massachusetts, he told a US court on one occasion, was where they “had our heart for the longest time”.

Long before the spectre of a criminal prosecution came into view, Drumm fought the efforts of his former bank, then known as Irish Bank Resolution Corporation and with new management under State control, to keep him on the hook for his loans to the bank, secured mostly on worthless Anglo shares.

Plymouth County Correctional Facility south of Boston, where prisoner 68201 David Drumm was detained while initially fighting and then awaiting his extradition back to Ireland in March 2016.
Plymouth County Correctional Facility south of Boston, where prisoner 68201 David Drumm was detained while initially fighting and then awaiting his extradition back to Ireland in March 2016.

If his trial in May and June 2014 was a gruelling process, the judgment of US bankruptcy judge Frank Bailey was even more brutal. It showed his fraudulent behaviour did not just end when he left Anglo.

The judge’s 2015 ruling on transactions transferring hundreds of thousands of dollars in property and other assets to his wife Lorraine found 30 instances of fraudulent conduct against Mr Drumm under US bankruptcy law when he was required only to deny him a discharge from bankruptcy.

In an excoriating ruling, the judge found Drumm “not remotely credible”, and his found sworn statements to the court “replete with knowingly false statements, failures to disclose, efforts to misdirect and outright lies”.

As bad as it was, that ruling came in a civil matter; the Anglo charges brought Drumm into much more dangerous territory and the realm of the criminal.

The inevitable prolonged

His decision not to return home years ago to face charges brought against former colleagues was a calculated one and, in retrospect, only prolonged the inevitable, given how some of his subordinates at Anglo – Willie McAteer, Pat Whelan and John Bowe – were prosecuted and convicted long before him.

Some former Anglo figures have suggested that Bowe, who was never a director of the bank, may not even have been prosecuted had Drumm, a more senior figure, been more easily available to the authorities. Bowe’s starring role in the Anglo tapes, however, put him centre stage alongside Drumm, but in the latter’s absence.

The Garda investigation that began in February 2009 into the transactions at the centre of Drumm’s 81-day trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court led to 33 warrants for his arrest on specific offences relating to fraudulent conduct being issued only in the summer of 2014. It was another year before the charges were processed in the US, leading to his arrest at home on October 10th, 2015.

Drumm’s decision not to return home earlier even figured as late as day 80 of his trial in Dublin. Prosecuting counsel Paul O’Higgins SC, in response to concerns raised by Drumm’s team about knowledge of events so long ago, said during legal arguments that Drumm himself could have come back earlier.

The most damaging fallout of Drumm’s sit-it-out strategy for him was his five-month stay as prisoner 68201 in the maximum-security Plymouth County Correctional Facility south of Boston, where he was detained while initially fighting and then awaiting his extradition back to Ireland in March 2016.

The prison, once home to famous inmates including al-Qaeda “shoe-bomber” Richard Reid and Irish-American Boston mob boss James “Whitey” Bulger, could not have been more different from Drumm’s multimillion-dollar home in leafy Wellesley, a satellite town of Boston popular with financiers.

Even with legal representation from prominent US lawyers, including Ed McNally, a former speechwriter and adviser to two US presidents who made a name for himself defending people in complex financial cases, Drumm could not avoid the fact that he had a case to answer at home.

Assent to extradition

Despite claims of politically motivated charges at home, an emotional direct plea to the judge and supporting appearances from his tearful wife and daughters and other supporters in a courtroom at the John Joseph Moakley Courthouse in Boston, Drumm later accepted that his fight was in Dublin, not Boston, when he agreed to waive his right to a probable-cause hearing and assented to his extradition home.

The Irish government argued that it had been investigating Anglo since 2009 but that bringing Drumm to court had been complicated by his decision to leave the country, and by his failure to co-operate.

At a hearing in February 2016, Drumm, looking beaten after four months in a hard US prison and with no supporters in court except for his lawyers, signed paperwork agreeing to his return to Ireland. There was no mention of politicians “screaming from the rafters to get him home” or “whisper campaigns” about him.

More than two years later, the Dubliner faces another spell in prison. At 51, he is the youngest of the former Anglo bankers to have been convicted but the most senior of them to see the inside of a cell, completing his fall from grace from the heady heights of running Ireland’s most notorious corporation.

As prosecuting counsel said on the first day of his trial, Drumm was “the man who called the shots” at Anglo; it was fitting that he should bear responsibility for the bank’s malpractices.