Key questions in banking inquiry won’t be asked until April

Witnesses to include bankers, regulators, politicians, civil servants, auditors and advisers

When Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty asks the first question of Finnish academic  Peter Nyberg on Wednesday, it will kick off the public hearings of the Joint Committee of Inquiry into the Banking Crisis. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

When Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty asks the first question of Finnish academic Peter Nyberg on Wednesday, it will kick off the public hearings of the Joint Committee of Inquiry into the Banking Crisis. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

When Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty asks the first question of Finnish academic and finance expert Peter Nyberg on Wednesday, it will kick off the public hearings of the Joint Committee of Inquiry into the Banking Crisis.

This is the so-called context phase, where the committee will hear from the authors of four reports on the crisis, as well as agencies such as the International Monetary Fund and other experts or groups.

For taxpayers the meat and drink will begin in April, when the inquiry begins calling witnesses for the so-called nexus phase.

These will include bankers, regulators, politicians, senior civil servants, auditors and various advisers who were engaged before and after the bank guarantee in September 2008.

It’s not clear how many bankers will be called. It’s even less certain how many will attend. Some, such as David Drumm, a former chief executive of Anglo Irish Bank, reside outside the State, making it difficult for the committee to compel them to attend.

Strict adherence

This would seem to rule out a raft of former executives from both Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Life & Permanent who are facing legal actions of one sort or another.

A long list of bankers is likely to be called upon from the institutions covered by the guarantee: AIB, Anglo Irish Bank, Bank of Ireland, EBS, Irish Life & Permanent (now split into separate legal entities called Permanent TSB and Irish Life) and Irish Nationwide.

The committee has written to the main banks, including Ulster Bank, which is owned by Royal Bank of Scotland and wasn’t covered by the guarantee.

However, it was referenced in some of the reports that have been produced to date about the banking crisis here.

The inquiry has requested that each bank nominate a point of contact for it to deal with. It has also put them on notice that they might be required to produce certain documents or records of interest to the committee.

A team of 12 investigators will assist the inquiry in securing the appropriate documentation and in identifying relevant witnesses.

Full co-operation

Just two senior executives from the pre-crash era survive in senior positions at the Irish-owned banks – Bank of Ireland chief executive Richie Boucher and Fergus Murphy, the former chief of EBS and now director of products at AIB since it acquired the building society in 2011.

The committee is also likely to call representatives from the National Treasury Management Agency and the National Asset Management Agency.

Contact has also been established with the European Central Bank, but it is not clear whether either its former president Jean-Claude Trichet or his successor, Mario Draghi, will appear.

Taxpayers want to hear from the lips of Eugene Sheehy, former chief executive of AIB, Brian Goggin, who led Bank of Ireland, and Michael Fingleton, who ruled the roost at Irish Nationwide, on how this crisis came to pass, their individual roles, and how it came to be that taxpayers ended up footing a bailout bill for €65 billion.

The nexus phase will run until September.