25 Jun 2013

Irish bankers reeling after phone talks broadcast

Embarrassing conversations between former executives of Anglo Irish Bank, which was rescued by the taxpayer after running into trouble, are leaked to a Dublin newspaper.

(Source: Irish Independent)

The talks, at the height of Ireland’s financial meltdown, suggest that senior executives were aware the bank was in a worse state than previously admitted. At several points in the conversations, there is laughter and swearing.

Rescuing indebted banks led to Ireland receiving an 85bn euro IMF/EU bailout in 2010, leading in turn to austerity measures whose effects are still being felt today.

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny said he understood voters’ “rage and anger” over bank bailouts.

The phone conversations between John Bowe, Peter Fitzgerald and David Drumm were obtained by the Irish Independent newspaper.

In one excerpt, Mr Fitzgerald asks Mr Bowe how the bank had come up with a figure of 7 billion euros for the proposed rescue of Anglo Irish, which eventually cost taxpayers 30bn euros.

‘We need more’

Mr Bowe says: “If they (the central bank) saw the enormity of it up front, they might decide they have a choice. You know what I mean?

“They might say the cost to the taxpayer is too high. Yeah, and that number is seven, but the reality is that actually we need more than that.”

(Source: Irish Independent)

In another excerpt, former Anglo Irish chief executive David Drumm and Mr Bowe discuss concerns raised by other European countries about the Irish government’s guarantee to the nation’s banks – and the effect this was having on deposits elsewhere in Europe.

Mr Drumm says: “So f****** what? Just take it anyway. Stick the fingers up.”

At one point, Mr Bowe sings the German national anthem, and Mr Drumm laughs, after discussing Berlin’s concerns about money flowing out of Germany and into Ireland as a result of the government’s guarantee.

‘Two fingers’

Referring to British worries, Mr Bowe talks about giving “two fingers” to London.

At another point, Mr Drumm says: “We have to get the money in, get the f****** money in, get it in.”

Mr Bowe said he regretted the conversation, but denied any wrongdoing or intention to mislead the Irish central bank.

“In hindsight, I deeply regret that the language and tone I used in these internal bilateral telephone calls was both imprudent and inappropriate,” he said in a statement.

Mr Fitzgerald said he also regretted the tone of the conversation, according to excerpts of a statement read out by national broadcaster RTE.

‘Deeply disturbing’

Fianna Fail, in government at the time of the financial crisis, said the tapes should be referred to the police and corporate regulators.

“Any suggestion that the taxpayer was lured into bailing out Anglo Irish Bank under a false impression about the state of the bank’s financial condition is deeply disturbing and has to be fully investigated by the authorities,” finance spokesman Michael McGrath said.

Sinn Fein said the tapes were “shocking to the core”.

Anglo Irish was liquidated in 2013. There are more clips available on the Irish Independent website.