Former Anglo chairman called to face Oireachtas grilling

THE former chairman of Anglo Irish Bank, Sean FitzPatrick, is to be called to appear before an Oireachtas committee probing the bank’s meltdown.

The Committee on Economic Regulatory Affairs wants to grill Mr FitzPatrick about how he took out major loans from the bank and concealed them from shareholders.

When the loans were finally made public before Christmas, the story triggered a collapse of confidence in the already ailing bank, leading to its nationalisation last week.

In a speech to the Dáil introducing the legislation to nationalise the bank, Finance Minister Brian Lenihan said Mr FitzPatrick’s “unacceptable practices” had done “serious damage to the reputation of Anglo at a difficult time in the markets”.

The Director of Corporate Enforcement and the Financial Regulator are already investigating the case, but the committee believes it should also examine the issue on taxpayers’ behalf.

The chairman of the committee, Fianna Fáil TD Michael Moynihan, said he was “deeply concerned at what went on in Anglo”.

He said the Oireachtas had a duty on behalf of the taxpayer to find out exactly what happened at the bank. The committee also wants to talk to both the bank’s internal and external auditors.

“It beholds us to examine exactly what went wrong and to restore some sort of confidence in the financial system,” Mr Moynihan said.

However, while the committee can summon Mr FitzPatrick and other parties, there are no guarantees they will appear.

Last week, the outgoing Financial Regulator Patrick Neary, who retires at the end of the month after being accused of failing to adequately govern the conduct of the banks, failed to appear before the Oireachtas Committee on Finance, which is also investigating these issues.

The Committee on Economic Regulatory Affairs will be hoping Mr FitzPatrick avails of the opportunity to explain his own conduct, but the various legal issues now surrounding Anglo Irish raises the possibility that Mr FitzPatrick will decline to do so.

Mr FitzPatrick was reported yesterday as saying he had “great sympathy” for shareholders in both Anglo and all the other banks.

He told Sunday newspaper the nationalisation of Anglo was “a very sad day”. He also vowed to pay back the €84 million in loans currently outstanding to the bank. “If I borrowed money, I do intend to pay it back.”

Meanwhile, Communications Minister Eamon Ryan has said that some practices in the banks that led to the crisis were legally wrong.

“Some of the practices that went on were wrong — legally wrong, morally wrong — and we will not tolerate that in Government. We are going to get a straight, honest system which Ireland needs,” he was reported as saying.

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