The charges laid against Anglo staffers today may lead to just the same defence though not perhaps to the same resounding collapse.
Sean Quinn didn't just bet on Anglo Irish Bank, he attempted to take it over by a back door method by betting the shares would rise in value- taking out Contracts for Difference.
He got it wrong.
The shares fell continuously in part because the combination of his bet becoming known & the early revelation (by Merrill Lynch analyst Phil Ingram) of the bank's likely parlous financial state and partly because share buyers & analysts were incresingly dubious about the banks hitherto stellar performance.
Quinn was either woefully ill advised or wonderfully autocratic. The Contracts for Difference contained no stop loss, no end point where the deal was off. The more the shares fell, the worse Quinn's position became. Short selling, a normal market mechanism where borrowed shares are sold & bought back at a lower price, was accelerating the fall.
In the end the only solution was to buy out the shares.
To do this Quinn needed to borrow money from Anglo Irish itself. If this was done it was strictly illegal under company law.
Quinn could not hold the massive block of shares for long and that was obvious to the markets. The prospect of a massive unloading was depressing the already bad share price & threatening the bank's capitalisation. Thus this overhang became a concern to all of the authorities: the Banking Regulator, the Central Bank & through the Department of Finance, ultimately the Minister for Finance.
Anglo solved the problem.
They solved it by loaning money to ten customers, the "Golden Circle", to buy a large body of shares of the shares. These loans, if they occurred, were strictly illegal under company law.
This leaves a number of questions which have been asked but never answered about the role of the The Banking Regulator, The Central Bank, Department & The Minister Mr Cowen.
- When did Mr Cowen as Minister for Finance become aware of Mr Sean Quinn's enormous contracts for difference exposure on Anglo Irish Bank Shares?
- What effort did Mr Cowen or his Department make to clarify the ownership of Anglo Irish Bank in the first three months of 2008 given that there were strong indications that the Quinn Group or Mr Sean Quinn had built a considerable stake in the bank through a combination of CDFs and direct share purchase?
- When did Mr Cowen become aware that the positions held by Mr Sean Quinn on Anglo Irish Bank Shares was untenable and needed to be unwound?
- Did Mr Cowen, or officials at the Department of Finance, the Financial Regulator and the Governor of the Central Bank express any concern to either Mr Sean Quinn or Anglo Irish Bank management or board at the short selling of the banks stock resulting from the rumours about the size of Mr Sean Quinn's CDF position?
- When and by whom was approval given, as is required by law, for either Mr Sean Quinn or the Quinn Group to own ten per cent or more of Anglo Irish Bank?
- Did Mr Cowen discuss such approval with the Central Bank or its Governor?
- If such approval was given then why were the public and other shareholders not informed?
- If approval was not sought and given then why & by whom was the law flouted?
- When did Mr Cowen become aware that the twenty five per cent stake that resulted from this unwinding of Mr Sean Quinn's position was beyond Mr Quinn’s capacity and thus overhung the market, threatening a catastrophic slide in Anglo Irish Bank's share price, capitalisation and very existence?
- What contact did Mr Cowen, or officials at the Department of Finance, the Financial Regulator and the Governor of the Central Bank have with the board and management of Anglo Irish Bank on the issue of this shareholding and its implications for the bank in March and April 2008?
- Did Mr Cowen, officials at the Department of Finance , the Financial Regulator or the Governor of the Central Bank indicate in any way to Management or Board at Anglo Irish Bank that the bank should place its own shares?
- Did Mr Cowen, officials at the Department of Finance , the Financial Regulator or the Governor of the Central Bank question how ten business people were induced to buy shares in a bank whose share price had been in steep decline for several months and barely one month after the bank had suffered a near fatal catastrophic sell of on March 17th?
- Did Mr Cowen, officials at the Department of Finance, the Financial Regulator or the Governor of the Central Bank ask or were aware from where the €451,000,000 used by the ten businessmen came?
- Did Mr Cowen discuss or become aware in 2008 that Anglo Irish Bank had loaned these monies to the purchasers of the Quinn ten per cent ?
- What effort was made by the financial regulator, the Governor of the Central Bank and Mr Cowen to check if this stake was in anyway financed by loans from the bank itself?
- Did Mr Cowen discuss the matter of the purchase of Anglo Irish Bank shares with Mr Brian O Farrell, a member of the Golden Circle that bought the Anglo Irish shares, at the fundraising dinner in the Shelbourne Hotel in March 2008 at which Mr Farrell was one of only 13 payed-up invitees?
- Did Mr Cowen discuss the purchase by ten businessmen of Anglo Irish Bank shares from the Quinn tranche when he attended a dinner for himself and his top Department officials at the bank headquarters on April 24th 2008?
- These questions have never been answered. Questions 9-16 go to the heart of not just this trial but the also to the heart of the worst, most expensive financial scandal ever to occur in Ireland.
- There is for the Dublin & London Exchanges where Anglo was once listed another question, not pertinent to the trial but to fate of the other shareholders in early 2008, a group ill served by company management, the stock Exchanges & the regulatory Authorities:
- Did the shareholding of Mr Sean Quinn or the Quinn Group in Anglo Irish Bank reach or exceed thirty percent at any stage during his purchases and the unwinding his CDF position?
The Matrix Churchill trial collapsed because the directors of the precision engineering firm had been advised the the Government on how to sell the arms with which sale they were charged.
We need to how much of the Anglo/Quinn share debacle was advised by government or its agencies.It is time that those who wielded power, who were paid magnificent salaries to guard our interests & who have retired on annual lottery winnings of pensions should start telling the truth.
4 years & €70 billion later, that is not an unreasonable request.
4 years & €70 billion later, that is not an unreasonable request.