Anglo staff to be subject to ethics law

TOP-LEVEL staff at Anglo Irish Bank will have to let the state’s standards watchdog scrutinise their investments and business interests, under expanded ethics regulations.

For the first time its directors will have to file annual reports with the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO) informing it of any sideline jobs, land holdings, gifts received and investments worth more than €12,700 if they overlap with the bank.

The same will apply if family members or children have similar interests.

Designated officials and higher paid staff at the bank will also have to inform company secretary Natasha Mercer of all significant interests they hold.

This happened because of the extension of a law designed to prevent public officials from using their offices to line their pockets.

The Ethics Act now applies to Anglo, and 27 of its offshoots in this country, under a legal obligation introduced by Finance Minister Brian Lenihan this month. Irish-based staff at 133 subsidiaries and companies it has taken control of, in Britain, continental Europe and America are also covered.

However, overseas staff working for the nationalised bank have been given a special exemption from the requirements – although they still carry out the business on behalf of the bank.

This international exemption is unique to Anglo and does not apply to 401 other public agencies and companies covered by the act.

Along with Anglo Mr Lenihan’s statutory instrument also brought 33 other public bodies under the declaration requirements of the Ethics Act.

He also extended the umbrella to a host of subsidiaries of An Post, Bord Gáis, the ESB and Coillte.

A range of specific job titles were given demands to produce internal interest reports for the first time, including the positions of company secretary at a number of state companies.

Anglo staff, and the directors of the 33 other companies, will now have to complete reports on their investments and holdings for SIPO.

Despite the demands of the Ethics Act it has proved difficult to implement because its lacks the scope for members of the public to scrutinise directors’ reports.

Coincidentally the most high profile investigation SIPO conducted under the relevant sections of act involved two Anglo directors.

This happened because two directors of the bank were also sitting on the board of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority, which was doing business with the bank.

In 2007 SIPO found Sean FitzPatrick, the chairman and former chief executive of the bank, did not have sufficient control of the bank to justify an offence. Neither, SIPO said, did non-executive director Lar Bradshaw.

Both men resigned from the bank a year later after it was discovered the bank had supplied them with millions of euro in directors’ loans.


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