Thursday, 19 April 2012

An open letter to Catherine Byrne TD

Dear Catherine,

At the Fine Gael Ard Fheis, when the motion on Same Sex Marriage was not debated as those of us who wished to speak against the motion were studiously excluded, you congratulated the young man who spoke for the motion on his courage. Leaving aside my disagreement with a debate that refuses an opposition or the manifest unfairness of a platform that congratulates one gay man on his courage while refusing another the right to speak, I resort to this vehicle of an open letter for a more immediate reason.

As an openly gay Fine Gael activist this congratulations gave me cause for concern, even for worry. What are the dangers, for surely there is no courage in safety, that exist for being openly gay in Fine Gael?

I have confidently been a branch & constituency officer, a campaign manager at all electoral levels (bar the Presidency) & a County Director of elections and have clearly been lulled into a false and perilous sense of my own security. My exposure to Fine Gael has been as widespread as it has been trusting. Now I am horrified at the risks I have run & haunted by the fear of peril.

I badly need to know where these dangers lie so that I may avoid them. Is it solely at Ard Fheiseanna that I risk death & disablement at the hands of a group of militant middle aged homophobes with membership cards? Are some constituencies worse or better than others? I appear to have been particularly blessed with Carlow Kilkenny but maybe Fine Gael gatherings of Dublin South Central teem with skin-headed yobs carrying baseball bats marked "This Bat Kills Queers"?

This worry for my personal safety will naturally impinge on my ability to organise & canvass for the party, after all one cannot give one's best if momentarily expecting to be battered by some recidivist County Councillor and his cronies in the name of God, Eoin O Duffy & the dead generations.

This worry goes beyond the personal selfishness of liking my features in their current un-baseball battted alignment. I am not alone in being openly gay in Fine Gael though for obvious safety reasons as you can well understand, I cannot name names in the climate of fear engendered by your congratulations.

I can only beg you to allay my worries, help all of us stay safe & out of the clutches the stoners & bashers by having the courage to publicly delineate the areas of danger. If this involves naming & shaming some violent homophobes remember that the party is better off without them.

Yours Most Sincerely,
Paddy Manning






Sunday, 26 February 2012

Which Arab Season?

When the founding fathers of America  brought forth a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal they changed the world forever. Many believed that such a country could not long endure, that such a nation was neither possible,plausible or permissible. How wrong they were.

"Conceived in liberty" that men might own themselves, be their own masters was a shattering blow whose effects are still rattling dictators & enslavers.

 "The proposition that all men are created equal" gave each a stake in a nation of free men, a radical idea that would make men and women from all over the world patriotic citizen's.


That noble experiment in liberty worked, worked beyond the dreams of those founding fathers. America became a magnet for millions & a beacon of hope in some of the darkest days of humanity. Freedom made America rich & and those countries who followed that template of economic freedom also found prosperity.


 When vile men slaughtered the innocent on 9/11 in the name of Islam America & American's showed the tolerance of liberty: how many countries would see their people react so well? We mourned in Ireland, 3/4 of the first responders that died were Irish or of Irish descent. What is less well known is that the attacks left 30 Muslim children orphaned. America's strength from her founding principles was her ability to bind people from all faiths & countries as one free people. Osama Bin laden could kill civilians & knock the towers but he could not change that & the Armageddon of Islam versus the West was a creature of his perverted mind.

This is not to say that America was perfect, slavery darkens the past but the nation paid in blood, nor that those freedoms that made America great & rich are not being now radically undermined, but it is worth reminding ourselves of why & how the United States inspires.


In kleptocracies in North Africa, countries where business cannot be done without bribing some government official, where the army picks off the best business opportunities & the presidential family amasses billions that radical message of liberty is inspiring again. 


It is not Islamacists nor some terrorist factions that are behind the Arab Spring. That season is the child of ordinary freedom loving men & women, men created equal with us in their desire to live free,decent lives. They are inspired, not by Che Guevara or Lenin but by Steve Jobs & Larry Page. This is a capitalist revolution, much more Tea Party than Occupy Wall St.  


They may yet be betrayed as the partially have been in Egypt with the army retaining control. They may yet fail, as in Syria where the price of their failure will be slaughter, barbaric torture & even worse repression. As I write 100,000 civilians in Homs are cold, hungry & being slaughtered by Russian artillery. Sadly Israel, the one country that could stop the slaughter of Homs cannot intervene.


Powerful elites & kleptocrats do not give up their privileges easily & even if the protesters do succeed with free elections, the best organised & funded political parties in all these countries will be the Muslim brotherhood or its equivalent. That is a call to all free nations' civil society, not an excuse to repress.


I have seen it argued that America should have helped crush the movement in Egypt, for Israel's sake. That would have been a terrible betrayal of the founders, of the very idea of nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. If Israel can only be kept safe by keeping the people of Egypt in slavery then Israel  will never be safe. America has always been a friend to freedom: that policy has made the world a freer, safer place and made every free nation America's ally. Repression not only would betray Americas most profound ideals but would store up hatred & resentment for centuries.  

I have talked to men and women involved in the struggle to own themselves as free people in countries not run to enrich an elite. They want the right to work, open businesses & get on with their lives. For this, like the men of Valley Forge, they are willing to die. Many already have. Does it matter that they are Muslim? That they follow a different faith than I? 

When the riots in the British cities were at there height last summer 21 year old Muslim,, Haroon Jahan was one of three men murdered. Hours after holding his son as he died on the street his father Tariq Jahan was appealing for calm, for no further deaths or revenge attacks. On the worst night of his life Tariq's faith inspired him to save other families the grief he was enduring.  He succeeded & prevented a certain race riot breaking out in Birmingham.

As in Scott Fitzgerald said, the fundamental decencies of life are unequally divided. Just as the creeps from Westboro find justification in the Bible for picketing the funerals of fallen heroes, bad men will find justification for terror in the Koran. It may even be there but the men & women that that protest & hope for a better future are not those men. It would be Osama Bin-laden's greatest victory & a posthumous revenge if he succeeded blinding us to that.













ECB grennmailing Ireland- A La Kermit

What do you have if you hold a green ball in one hand and a green ball in the other hand? The bawdy riddle, current the last time the Muppets were in the cinema brings to mind the European Central Bank , the ignored institution in the story of Ireland's financial crash.

The answer was Kermit the Frog's undivided attention & the ECB has not just the Irish Government's undivided attention but near total control over that Government. The green balls are the short term funds of the Irish banks. Without this funding none of the still existing Irish banks could function. Troubled banks are forced to rely on one of their main destroyers for funding lifeline.

The ECB is a Franco-German institution: describing it a "European" despite the fact it now has a token Italian , albeit a fairly brilliant token Italian, as its head, is a lie. Draghi was appointed because the Germans had lost their candidate & the French just had their turn, in the person of the startlingly incompetent Trichet. The French, in the kind of corrupt back-room deal in which they specialise, still got one up by having the Italian on the six person board to resign to make way for a French candidate: it is hardly likely he brings as little to the party as Trichet but one is not sanguine.

The ECB has used our Kermit The Frog position stifle any official criticism of it's own role in the disaster & to ensure our government does not break ranks on debt payback, both to bondholders & to the moneypit that is the ELA. This is blackmail.

Under the Maastricht treaty the ECB has a duty of to ensure the stability of banks in the Eurozone. Trichet ignored this to the point of deliberate negligence.

Short-term paper (bonds) are heroin to banks, providing funds that need to be repaid in relatively short order. Commit to much of those funds to loans & a bank is dependent on rolling the bonds over rather than repaying them. That is financial addiction: cold turkey of a bond market withdrawal leads to disastrous results.

Irish banks were allowed create just such an addiction trap between 1999 & 2007: the first 8 years of the Euro. As low interest rates encouraged more borrowers & property asset prices increased, the amount of collateral and loans increased, the vicious circle meant that deposits could not fund loans. (Some of those deposits were themselves the direct result of loans: fractional reserve banking is magic)

This growth in lending out paced the ability of deposits to fund it so the banks were relying more & more on short term Eurobonds. The Euro had gotten the banks over the exchange rate issues of borrowing abroad.

Lending grew from €120b in 2000 to €400b in 2006 and by 2006 Eurobonds accounted for €129b of the funding for that credit. Why was the ECB NOT warning the Irish Government about this massive inflow of credit? Why were no steps taken to to regulate this Amazon of euro's flowing into Irish banks. Did a compound annual growth of over 28% in lending in the final 3 years of the boom not ring alarm bells in Frankfurt?

If the answer is No, then Trichet was a fool, if yes, a knave. Either way the collapse of the Irish banks happened due to ECB negligence and we need to make this very clear to Europe. Then we need to stop paying the ELA debt to our own Central Bank.

We can compromise on that, we are a reasonable people. We will pay the money in, but instead of electronically burning it, the Central Bank will credit the government with the funds. We still pay our debt, but costlessly to ourselves, not to as a holocaust to the German Gods of Moral Hazard & Hard Money.

Perhaps it is time to consider what charges might be brought against Mr Trichet for his dereliction of duty. An arrest warrant might concentrate minds.

   









The Koch brothers are oil billionaires regularly attacked by the left in America for donating to free-market & conservative think-tanks. Shamelessly the Obama election campaign has cranked up those attacks. This letter, a response to that demonisation, is both a wonderfully elegant riposte & a clear defence of a free society. I got it on the web & think it is worth keeping.




Mr. Jim Messina
Campaign Manager
Obama for America



Dear Mr. Messina:


Because every American has the right to take part in the public discourse on matters that affect the future of our country, I feel compelled to respond directly about a fundraising letter you sent out on February 24 denouncing Koch. It is both surprising and disappointing that the President would allow his re-election team to send such an irresponsible and misleading letter to his supporters.


For example, it is false that our “business model is to make millions by jacking up prices at the pump.” Our business vision begins and ends with value creation — real, long-term value for customers and for society. We own no gasoline stations and the part of our business you allude to, oil and gas refining, actually lowers the price of gasoline by increasing supply. Either you simply misunderstand the way commodities markets work or you are misleading your supporters and the rest of the American people.


Contrary to your assertion that we have “committed $200 million to try to destroy President Obama,” we have stated publicly and repeatedly since last November that we have never made any such claim or pledge. It is hard to imagine that the campaign is unaware of our publicly stated position on that point. Similarly, Americans for Prosperity is not simply “funded by the Koch brothers,” as you state — rather it has tens of thousands of members and contributors from across the country and from all walks of life. Further, our opposition to this President’s policies is not based on partisan politics but on principles. Charles Koch and David Koch have been outspoken advocates of the free-market for over 50 years and they have consistently opposed policies that frustrate or subvert free markets, regardless of whether a Democrat or a Republican was President.


If the President’s campaign has some principled disagreement with the arguments we are making publicly about the staggering debt the President and previous administrations have imposed on the country, the regulations that are stifling business growth and innovation, the increasing intrusion of government into nearly every aspect of American life, we would be eager to hear them. But it is an abuse of the President’s position and does a disservice to our nation for the President and his campaign to criticize private citizens simply for the act of engaging in their constitutional right of free speech about important matters of public policy. The implication in that sort of attack is obvious: dare to criticize the President’s policies and you will be singled out and personally maligned by the President and his campaign in an effort to chill free speech and squelch dissent.


This is not the first time that the President and his Administration have engaged in this sort of disturbing behavior. As far back as August, 2010, Austan Goolsbee, then the President’s chief economic advisor, made public comments concerning Koch’s tax status and falsely stated that the company did not pay income tax, which triggered a federal investigation into Mr. Goolsbee’s conduct that potentially implicated federal law against improper disclosure of taxpayer information. Last June, your colleagues sent fundraising letters disparaging us as “plotting oil men” bent on “misleading people” with “disinformation” in order to “smear” the President’s record. Those accusations were baseless and were made at the very same time the president was publicly calling for a more “civil conversation” in the country.


It is understandable that the President and his campaign may be “tired of hearing” that many Americans would rather not see the president re-elected. However, the inference is that you would prefer that citizens who disagree with the President and his policies refrain from voicing their own viewpoint.Clearly, that’s not the way a free society should operate.


We agree with the President that civil discourse is an American strength. That is why it is troubling to see a national political campaign apparently target individual citizens and private companies for some perceived political advantage. I also hope the President will reflect on how the approach the campaign is using is at odds with our national values and the constitutional right to free speech.


Sincerely,
Philip Ellender
President, Government & Public Affairs
Koch Companies Public Sector, LLC

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

It's not the Economy, it's the Economics - How all our Politicians don't understand the Problem

No one should be surprised that Enda Kenny has now blamed a collective psychosis for our economic crash. Since 2008 politicians have wrestled with an explanation of what happened to Ireland with all the intellectual alacrity of brain dead rabbits and the explanation has defeated them.

Cowen blamed Lehman Brothers, the Greens (remember them, stupid, smug & out of touch?) blamed too much planning permission, and now for Kenny it is greed and madness. This is the level of analysis at which our politicians operate: wilfully ignorant & woefully uninformed. Terrifyingly there are citizens who should know better agreeing with these various hare-brained explanations.

"Greedy capitalists get money by trade. Good liberals steal it." David Friedman

"Greed" has been used over & over as both an explanation & a denunciation by statist clowns who believe that building houses is properly the business of the government: men who risked ,money, employed others, paid massive taxes (stamp, capital, vat & paye) were just evil. Now it has become fashionable to heap any abuse on them. Such contumely has taken the place of analysis & knowledge.

Neither Cowen's defence of his destructive tenure at Finance nor Gormley & Co's sheer ignorance of basic economics now matter: they have left the stage. It does matter that Enda Kenny is still parroting the tripe that socialist adolescents tell each other in the dark: he is Taoiseach.

Kenny's statement is a direct repudiation of intelligible human action, of knowledge itself. If what happened was a collective out break of madness then it could happen anywhere, at any time, no country would ever be safe. Policy,interest rates, taxation, currency  have nothing to do with what happens in the economy. Economies are thus mere random collection of events powered by uninfluenceable factors over which we have no control. Anyone silly enough to be studying economics should switch to psychology or psychiatry, disciplines which might have some chance of shedding light on the crash mystery. They might even, if we were to pay heed to politicians, try a course at Hogwarts.

The mystery is why there is a mystery. What happened was economics, economics as a branch of human behaviour. Analyse the boom if you want to know the bust.

Dr Patrick Honohan, now the Governor of The Central Bank, did this succinctly in May 2009 publication "What Went Wrong":
"An unsustainable decade-long property price and construction boom, which began before that of the US and UK and went further than these both in price and quantity, had taken over from exports as the main driver of Irish growth. Initially prompted by the increased household formation (related to unprecedented levels of net immigration) and by the sharp fall in interest rates that accompanied the transition to EMU membership, the property boom was increasingly financed after 2003 with foreign borrowing by the banks."

Dr Honahan of course pulled his punches on the Euro: it would not do to have a Central Bank Governor diss the Holy Project. Despite that punch-pulling it is clear NONE of what he outlined could have gone on for as long or been as damaging if not for the Ireland joining the Euro/EMU. The Central Bank was deprived of the only weapon it had, interest rate changes, & the lack of exchange rate risks made Ireland an easy haven for vast amounts of (mainly German?) euro bonds.

"Among the triggers for the property bubble was the sharp fall in interest rates following euro membership: within the euro zone also the disciplines of the market which had traditionally served as warning signs of excess were muted. Lacking these prompts, Irish policymakers neglected the basics of public finance, wage policy and bank regulation." (Honohan p1)

There is nothing mad or greedy in investing in the highest yield products: the flooding of the Irish market with credit made housing just that. This bubble was not driven by Greenspan's "irrational exuberance" ( a remark betraying such imbecilic ignorance should have seen him sacked instead of deified) but by monetary inflation provided by the Irish banks. Flooding the market with cheap money confuses the price signals and makes correct investment decisions impossible. In an inflating market this impossibillity applies as much to the lender as the borrower.(Austrian economists have been pointing out the form, shape & causes of bubbles for at least a century.)

Anglo Irish Bank was central to this inflation. Operating (effectively) without regulation, with interest rates set by the ECB to revive a German economy suffering the hangover effects of the crazy decisions taken during unification (one to one parity between Ost & Deutsche Mark for instance), Anglo was not growing but exploding during that period and that explosive growth was based on property loans. Between 1998 & 2007 Anglo grew its book assets by over 2200% & its profits by over 2700%.(AB Annual reports 98-07) These figures ( a year on year growth of 45%) should have rattled regulators. Instead, in a classic case of "regulatory capture" when the emerging rumours about Anglo's huge exposure to the collapsing property market caused a massive collapse in the banks share price on St Patricks Day 2008, the regulator, Patrick Neary instigated an investigation into stockbrokers.

In the Words of Peter Nyberg:
"Anglo in particular was widely admired domestically and abroad and lauded (by many investors,consultants, analysts, rating agencies and the media) as a role model for other Irish banks to emulate." From consultants Oliver Wyeman to stock broker (now TD) Shane Ross Anglo were seen as the shining light of the new paradigm. Under pressure from such cheerleaders & shareholders concerned about comparative profitability, where Anglo led, the other Irish banks followed.

Lending for property became the business of all Irish banks

Bank lending was growing at a tremendous pace:
"...rising from a stock of €120bn in 2000 to almost €400bn by 2007. The three years ending in 2006 marked the highest sub-period of sustained growth, with loan assets more than doubling overall, growing at a compound rate of almost 28% per annum. This rate of growth significantly outpaced growth
in Gross Domestic Product (GDP). By the end of 2007, total loans and advances to customers
stood at over twice GDP, up from 1.1 times GDP in 2000." (Nyberg Commission p.28) but a shocking 80% of new lending between 2002 &2008 was domestic property related lending .

Banks were loaning money for property with property as collateral: as prices rose more could be borrowed creating a vicious circle of borrowing & asset inflation. The rate of growth in lending out paced deposits so the banks were relying more & more on euro bonds, much of it short term, under the misguided belief that such funds would be permanently available. The rate of growth also outpaced the available sound opportunities for credit leading to a relaxing of standards as banks struggled to for volume in the face of margin-cutting competition.

"This was a plain vanilla property bubble, compounded by exceptional concentrations of lending for purposes related to property – and notably commercial property." (Regling & Watson)

Not only were developers borrowing to build more houses but the very availability of so much credit meant that those buying the houses were paying more every year, despite the huge supply.
 "Amongst the OECD, Irish house price growth between 1995 and 2007, the largest. In real terms, Irish prices grew by 9 per cent per annum over this period, next highest growth rate was 7.6 per cent." (Decomposing Irish house price movements: 2000 - 2010 McCarthy & McQuinn)

The credit bubble was inflating more than asset prices. Average wage increases in Ireland between 1997 & 2008 were two to three times euro-zone averages. The erosion of Ireland's competitiveness should have resulted in a slowdown & unemployment but the inflating credit bubble masked and deferred that eventuality. These economy destroying wage rises were happening both within & without the context of Government sponsored Social Partnership.
Relative unit labour costs (OECD via Regling & Watson p22)



If the banks were bad, the Government was worse. Not content with failing to regulate the banks the Government decided to spend the tax proceeds of the property bubble with the abandon of men who had discovered a Money Tree. In a septic nexus between the Social Partnership Agreements & Bertie Ahern's need to purchase popularity the Government set about cutting taxes while spending more money. Property was paying for everything.

Personal taxes came down as the government became more & more reliant on cyclically sensitive taxes. "There has been more and more dependence on corporation tax, stamp duties and capital gains tax (in that order). These three saw their share in total tax revenues rise steadily from about 8 per cent in 1987 to 30 per cent in 2006 before falling to 27 per cent in 2007 and just 20 per cent as soon as the economy turned down in 2008." (Honohan "What Went Wrong" Page 3)

"In addition, the pattern of tax cuts left revenues increasingly fragile, since they were dependent on taxes driven by the property sector and by high consumer spending." (Regling & Watson)

Between 2001 & 2006 Public sector pay rose by 59% and payroll numbers by 18,000 and between 1996 & 2006 the total bill for public sector pay trebled. During the same ten year period, despite "essentially
full employment for the first time in modern history" (ibid) the Social Welfare bill also trebled.

By 2006 domestic construction accounted for 1 in 5 Irish workers and nearly one quarter of the countries GDP. In that year the price of houses, being built at a rate of twice what could be sold, peaked. Then the credit from the Euro bonds dried up the next year as the US property boom bust.

So the explanation is simple, so simple that it might be learned by heart to prevent more outbreaks of foot-in -mouth:
  • We joined the Euro
  • Interest rates were very low for a long time
  • Awareness of risk was dulled
  • One bank led & the others followed into property funding massive lending not from deposits but euro-bonds
  • A Property Bubble, long, big  & disastrous happened
  • Government spent the proceeds of the bubble property taxes as normal annual income
  • The bubble ended leaving the Government short tax revenue, the banks bankrupt & hundreds of thousands unemployed.

We might well ask, given the appalling failures, what the hell were Government & regulators doing? It was not as if Irish banking was either complicated or innovative:
"Moreover, bank supervisors in Ireland were not called upon to deal with technically complex
problems. Ireland’s banking exuberance indulged in few of the exotic constructs that caused
problems elsewhere."(Regling & Watson) No one was bundling mortgages or playing with complex derivatives.

Everything that happened, the insane asset collateral backed lending, the vast over building, the dependence tax dependence on an unsustainable bubble, all happened in plain sight. Dr Morgan Kelly googled the information that underpinned his horribly accurate 2006 article. There are no excuses for Cowen, Ahern, McCreevy, Neary or Hurley.

For professional, highly paid regulators to have missed what was going on is too shocking.
"Developments in Scandinavia during the early parts of the 1990’s as well as in South-East Asia during the latter half (..of that decade..) should have been well within the professional memory of decision-makers in both banks and public institutions in Ireland during the 2000’s."(Regling & Watson)

We could add to those bank disasters the Savings & Loan debacle in the US which, in its asset-loan-collateral-loan circle the Irish Banking Disaster resembles. None of the reports adequately explains how so much bad banking happened in full view of those paid huge money to make sure it did not.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

I am as smugly pleased with my self as a Labour minister with a little bossing to do.

Robert Nozick's "Anarchy, The State & Utopia" is a major work of libertarian philosophy, possibly the major work. It is available as a free e-book: Nozick, like most libertarians, opposed the idea of intellectual property.

 Available it might be but finding it and persuading the PHP Downloader on www.edmundburkeinstitute.ie that it was a valid file for down-load proved a bit trickier than my limited grasp of PHP & web protocols until this morning.  So now you can have Nozick's master work for free at the Edmund Burke Institute website.

Hence my extreme pleasure with myself.....  

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Dr Who, Banksters & The Minister

In Dr Who, for all the time travelling ability of The Doctor, there are fixed points in time that do not change, that are too important. In the horrendous story of Anglo Irish bank there are also such points. There are questions that arise from those points that have not yet been properly asked or answered.


On April 24th 2008 Brian Cowen, Minister for Finance, had dinner with the board & management of Anglo Irish Bank at the bank's HQ on St Stephen's Green. Cowen was one of the most popular politicians in the country and, other than Bertie Ahern,the man he would replace,unopposed, as leader of Fianna Fail a fortnight later, the most powerful. His abysmal ignorance of the disaster he had helped to create for his country was fully intact. He wined and dined with his usual gusto, the management at the bank had every reason to make sure he had a very good time.

Sean Fitzpatrick, the chairman of Anglo Irish Bank, cannot have been as sanguine about the future as Mr Cowen. Although management consulting firm Oliver Wyman had named Anglo "the best bank in the world"   (OW have removed reference from their own site,  their league table can be seen below) in January 2007*, the share price of the bank had been on a steady slide since May 2007. 


The share slide eroded confidence in the bank & depositors took their money out, as large depositors fled the bank confidence eroded & the share price declined....


Two reports had made that slide worse. A report by a Merrill Lynch analyst,released on March 13, said Anglo were at particular risk from the collapsing London property market as late arrivals who lent very aggressively. On St Patrick's Day the bank lost €1billion in market capitalisation in a single disastrous day after the Financial Times columnist had named Anglo as being over exposed to the risky commercial property market. 


 The ML analyst, Cambridge zoology graduate Phillip Ingram had been influenced by an articles written by  Dr Morgan Kelly, articles that had provoked Cowen's boss, Bertie Ahern, to say that people who talked down the economy should commit suicide. Ingram had visited Dr Kelly and had simply applied the "mosaic theory" to the Anglo story. Mosaic Theory is the idea of collecting evidence/views from  wide variety of sources by finance professionals to come to some conclusion about the value of a company's securities. Although Ingram named ALL 3 big Irish Banks as risky,Anglo,BoI & AIB. Merrill Lynch retracted the report on the day & by the end of the year Ingram was no longer an employee there either.....


These reports were not the only worry the bank's senior management had about share price. Sean Quinn was, in the early months of 2008, about to bankrupt himself & the bank because of the bet he had made on the bank's shares. Quinn wanted to takeover Anglo without the full publicity of a stock exchange bid so he took out Contracts for Difference on a large amount of the banks shares. CFD's are a bet that the share price will move in  particular direction: Quinn bet that the share price would not fall. Worse again it appears he may have made that bet with money borrowed from the bank.


Quinn & Anglo were caught in a bind. Short-selling, the practise selling shares overnight, & buying them back in the morning (mostly with borrowed shares) was a huge issue for many banks in the wake of the Northern Rock & the near collapse of Bear Stearns. Short selling drove down share price but in Anglo's case the holders of Quinn's bet had every reason to help drive the price down:  the more the shares fell, the more Sean Quinn owed them, profits from the short selling & collecting off Quinn's bet was a double whammy.


Instead of investigating the bank after the horrendous share price drop on St Patrick's Day the Financial Regulator began to investigate stock brokers & the Governor of the Central Bank issued a statement supporting this investigation & supporting  Anglo as a sound bank.......




The senior management at Anglo were in no doubt that they were funding Quinn's speculation. Dara O’Reilly,Quinn's financial controller has testified to the numerous phone calls he made drawing down "development loans" that the bank was well aware was money to cover margin calls. 




Most CFDs contain a "stop loss", a point beyond which the bet pays out no more, this limits the level of margin calls . Quinn had put no stop loss on his bet. In the end he had no choice but buy out the shares. He did this with money borrowed, at least in part, from Anglo.  Quinn could not afford to hold his massive stake in Anglo so now those shares overhung an already fragile market. If Quinn tried to sell on the open market there would be catastrophic decline in the share price. Such a catastrophic decline would spell the end for the bank, deposit withdrawals & a near valueless share would mean insolvency. 


So as he handed Brian Cowen the gin & tonic  before the meal that Thursday night Fitzpatrick had to be painfully aware that Anglo Irish Bank in Wile.E.Coyote territory. To do a road runner they needed deposits & the government's National Treasury Management Agency had proven very reluctant to place funds on deposit with Anglo. 


Michael Somers , head of NTMA, was deeply suspicious of a bank growing at 45% per annum when the best banks interregionally did between 6-7%.


Why none of the trio directly concerned, Brian Cowen as minister, Patrick Neary, Chief Executive of the Financial Regulator or John Hurley, Governor of the Central Bank  had not noticed this suspiciously explosive growth rate has never been made clear. 


 That night Anglo's CEO, David Drumm, would lobby Cowen for NTMA deposits. 


As he wined and dined that night Cowen had to also be aware that this bank was in Wile.E territory: Fitzpatrick had informed him of the Quinn problem. Patrick Neary, the bank regulator & CBoI Governor John Hurley also knew.


In a Dail reply on the 17th of February 2009 Cowen said:


"A meeting took place last March at which the governor indicated to me, as Minister for Finance, that a situation was developing in regard to the contracts for difference issue in Anglo Irish Bank. That had to be dealt with by the bank. It proceeded with that and Mr. Quinn made a statement on 13 July relating to it. It was indicated at that time that the matter had been resolved."



Anglo had solved the Quinn  problem by inducing 10 major clients, referred to as the "Maple 10" by management to buy out a 10% tranche of Quinn's shares with money borrowed from the bank.  These loans appear now not to be recoverable: we have to pay them off. 


Banks are specifically prohibited from loaning money to buy their own shares. Such loans, are, by their nature, a particularly insidious fraud against the banks other investors.


Mr Cowen is a solicitor


"That had to be dealt with by the bank."  


Cowen was aware that between March & July 2008 an enormous tranche of shares had been quietly sold, "dealt with by the bank". These shares had to be placed with private investors in the teeth of a gale blowing away bank share prices, in a bank that had been close to being wiped out by a combination of lack of confidence & an insane speculation the countries richest man. 


How did Mr Cowen think, in so much that he could think on his beer-swilling, song-singing, glad-handling victory tour of Co. Offaly following his May 8th election as FF party leader & Taoiseach elect, that any investor was persuaded to buy shares in Anglo? 


How could anyone with the merest knowledge of the situation be unsuspicious of such deals?


Anyone that new of Anglo's "Quinn problem" in March 2008 would also have been painfully aware that the bank faced a rapid threat to its solvency and existence, not just to its liqudity. 


On the night of the Sunday 29th of September, faced with the certain knowledge that there would be a devastating run on every Irish bank on Monday morning Brian Lenihan held discussions with the banks, eventually at 2am Monday announcing a complete guarantee for the 6 Irish based banks. Lenihan believed the banks faced a liquidity problem:that is not enough ready money to do day to day business while the under-lying business remained sound or solvent.


Did the Taoiseach inform Mr Lenihan of  the earlier, averted crisis in Anglo?  


Cowen knew, the Governor of the Central bank knew ,the Financial Regulator knew. They all at the very least that Quinn's share overhang, an overhang that threatened the very existence of Anglo, had been purchased when bank shares were sliding and Anglo's were sliding faster than any. There is no doubt all three indicated that Anglo should solve the problem: did the question the deal done and if not, why not? If Anglo officers broke the law boosting the banks share price by loaning money  will the defence of those officers be that Cowen, Neary and Hurley cleared such a move to save the bank? Would that be a defence or an indictment?


Sean Quinn attempted to take over the third largest bank in the country by stealth. There are specific provisions in law about the ownership of bank shares. The Central Bank must give approval for any shareholder to own more than 10% of the publicly traded shares. Was such approval sought in Sean Quinn's case? Was it granted? If neither sought nor granted why was the Central bank complicit in this?


The figures for Quinn's shareholding all vary: 25-28% as final figures from a start of 6-7% in early 2007.  Although the figures vary they are remarkably consistent in placing Quinn's final holding below 30%.  If Quinn had purchased 30% or more he would have been obliged to bid for the entire shareholding.  Why were some shares put into his family members names? Are we sure he did not own or control  that fatal 30%? What investigation has been done by London & Dublin Stock Exchanges? By the state regulatory authorities here? Sean Quinn is now bankrupt and thus unamenable but others involved including the Irish State may not be so safe. 




The collapse of Anglo Irish Bank is the worst, most expensive financial scandal ever to occur in Ireland. The dimensions of the disaster and gravity of the consequences have no parallel in the history of this state. Twice the bank posted the largest corporate loss in the country's history.




Sean Quinn owes the bank over €2billion, largely as a result of his failed takeover bid.

Not alone did hundreds of honest investors,many of them small investors, lose their savings but the Irish people will be paying to mop up this mess for decades: up to 2031 when the final €7.2 billion annual payment will be made on the Promissory Note. (Anglo's only asset acceptable to the Central Bank\ECB Emergency Liquidity Assistance scheme was Government promises to pay in money)


To date no one has been charged with any crime relating to Anglo Irish Bank, its clouded share deals or its collapse.








The Oliver Wyman league table naming Anglo Irish bank the best performing bank in the world.




*Mistake! Originally this post had the date "January 2006" for the release of the Wyman accolade.In fact this was based on the banks 06 figures & was released to coincide with Davos in late January 07. The post has been amended to that effect.



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