Cowen had meeting in banker’s home, inquiry told

Former Anglo director insists no discussion about bank took place at meeting

Former taoiseach Brian Cowen. The inquiry heard he met the then Anglo Irish Bank chairman Seán Fitzpatrick at the home of a director of the bank before a golf game in July 2008

Former taoiseach Brian Cowen. The inquiry heard he met the then Anglo Irish Bank chairman Seán Fitzpatrick at the home of a director of the bank before a golf game in July 2008

 

Former taoiseach Brian Cowen met the then Anglo Irish Bank chairman Seán Fitzpatrick at the home of a director of the bank before a golf game in July 2008, the banking inquiry heard.

Gary McGann, a former Anglo director, confirmed he was present for the golf outing at Druid’s Glen, Co Wicklow. He said a meeting before the game took place at the home of Fintan Drury, a then nonexecutive director of Anglo and a friend of Mr Cowen.

Mr Cowen and Mr Drury appeared before the inquiry but did not mention any meeting taking place before the round.

Mr McGann insisted no discussion about the bank or its difficulties took place at the meeting or on the golf course.

“A general discussion – not in any way a kitchen cabinet, for want of a better word – was requested,” he said.

Asked if it was credible to say Anglo was not discussed, Mr McGann said it was not off the agenda but did not come up.

Mr McGann was also present for a dinner in April 2008 which Mr Cowen attended. He said it was a purely social occasion and insisted no banking issues were discussed at it.

He said it would have been “inappropriate” to have the minister for finance and future taoiseach brought into a general meeting about the bank at a social occasion. Such issues “should be tabled in a business environment”, he said.

Former Anglo chief executive David Drumm alleged banking issues were discussed at the dinner but Mr Cowen said it was a purely social occasion.

Mr McGann said such events were not a common occurrence but happened from time to time. He said other senior politicians often attended but he could not recall any names.

The inquiry heard Mr McGann was a member of the bank’s remuneration committee in 2007. He defended the pay given to senior officials and its chief executive Mr Drumm shortly before it was bailed out by the State.

Justified

Mr McGann was asked where the blame lay for the collapse of Anglo. He said it rested with the chief executive.

The inquiry also heard the Financial Regulator was briefed on Seán Quinn’s contracts for difference. Mr McGann said the regulator was informed at all times about the shareholding and the bank’s efforts to deal with the Quinn holdings.

Asked if it was a mistake to join the board, Mr McGann said he would have been a happier man if he hadn’t.

Earlier, the former head of Anglo’s corporate division said senior staff at the bank knew from early September 2008 that it would not survive. Peter Fitzgerald said he could not say if the view was verbalised to authorities because he was not party to those conversations.

Downfall

New York Times

Labour Senator Susan O’Keeffe said there was a perception that bankers escaped with large pensions and little punishment. Mr Fitzgerald said bankers had accepted responsibility for what happened. He said he would never defend Anglo Irish Bank “given everything that has gone on” and knew its collapse would never be forgotten.