Irish bankers: crimes admitted on tape


Richard Moore

Bcc: FYI
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Over here, the Irish Independent is having god’s own fun with some tapes that were leaked to it. The tapes are of the executives of the Anglo-Irish bank, meeting to discuss precisely a) how profoundly they were cheating the customers, and b) how profoundly they were lying to the government in order that they might be bailed out because their schemes to cheat the customers pretty much had blown up the bank. The tapes are nothing short of amazing.

The audio recordings are from the bank’s own internal telephone system and date from the heart of the financial crisis that brought the State to its knees in September 2008. Anglo itself was within days of complete meltdown – and in the years ahead would eat up €30bn of taxpayer money. Mr Bowe speaks about how the State had been asked for €7bn to bail out Anglo – but Anglo’s negotiators knew all along this was not enough to save the bank. The plan was that once the State began the flow of money, it would be unable to stop. Mr Bowe is asked by Mr Fitzgerald how they had come up with the figure of €7bn. He laughs as he is taped saying: “Just, as Drummer (then-CEO David Drumm) would say, ‘picked it out of my arse’.”

Lovely. Also, too:

Mr Drumm and Mr Bowe discuss whether it would be possible to get Mr Hurley to make a public statement of confidence in the Irish banks. At one point, Mr Drumm snaps: “No, no, forget about reality because it’s not working. Is there anything they (Central Bank) could say?”

I think “Forget about reality because it’s not working” should be tattooed on the forehead of every major banker from Jamie Dimon to these thieves over here. The tapes also are fairly clear evidence that complete amorality among the financial services industry remains far from an American phenomenon. It’s important to remember that, not long ago, as the bubble was building, Ireland was Exhibit A for the case being made by the master thieves that a combination of deregulation and cowboy banking was the golden staircase. The Celtic Tiger, remember? In point of fact, the Irish bubble was even bigger and more fragile than ours was, and when it popped, it did so with a far louder bang. In the aftermath, however, there was even less transparency as to the causes of the crash than there was in the United States.

The senior bankers, politicians and public officials have not been asked to explain the roles that each of them played in the genesis of the crisis and in the inadequacies of the policy response. Such inquiries as have been conducted have eschewed the allocation of responsibility to individuals or even to organisations. This encourages the narrative that the Irish banking collapse was some kind of natural disaster, unleashed from afar without human agency, an asteroid strike which unfortunately chose landfall in Ireland. An alternative and equally convenient notion is that it was a sociological phenomenon, a collective failure of the entire population for which all bear responsibility, which has the added advantage of justifying the liberal dispersal of the cost. Collateral damage from the failure to inquire into these events has been inflicted on those, bankers in particular, who played no role in the collapse.  


This is why the tapes obtained by the Independent have had such a remarkable resonance. It’s the closest thing Ireland has had to a public autopsy into the suspicious death of its economy. Not 50 yards from where I’m sitting is a string of bookmakers stalls that are considerably more honest with their customers than the people who ran the banks both here and back home. They are all thieves, every damn one of them. And, what’s more, they’re proud of it.

Plus, just reading the stuff is like reading a combination of the Dodd-Frank hearings and all those Enron e-mails. Good craic, as they say in John B. Keane’s great place.

Read more: Ireland Bank Tapes Leaked – The Snowden Effect: Ireland Edition – Esquire 
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