Monday, October 18, 2010

Anglo's David Drumm in the Independent: It's Not My Fault

David Drumm, former CEO of Anglo Irish Bank, is interviewed by the Independent here. His remarks give a good indication of the line likely to be taken by potential defendants - if the state ever gets around to prosecuting anyone. Here are some choice quotes:

I obviously can't accept responsibility for how the bank has been managed since, and I'll say no more on that. The issue I have is that the whole worldwide banking system collapsed in 2008, and it wasn't just one bank. A lot of people share responsibility, but Anglo has taken the brunt of it.
... we made a decision in 2004 to reduce our land and development exposures, particularly in Ireland, because right at that time we saw intense competition coming in from other banks, we saw land prices going up a ridiculous rate, and we made a conscious decision to pull back from it. We failed to execute on our own plan, and we never pulled back.

That was because of the strength of the relationship, we just had very strong, longstanding relationships with our borrowers and we couldn't stand back from them. If I think back about that time and what we could have done differently. . . I can't get away from thinking about that quite frankly. You know, 2008 was just a nightmare year, just a perfect storm of everything going wrong. We had the Quinn stake which created massive funding problems because of the uncertainty they created for the bank. We had short sellers who were being fed by the Quinn stock because we had the highest availability of stock in the market at one stage. So our stock was available to borrow, and short sellers need to be able to borrow stock. And ours was cheap to borrow because there was so much of it. They were shorting us. They were sowing rumours. The world around us was in a very negative state anyway, and banks everywhere, everywhere, were going bust.

Every day the media were asking which bank was going to go bust next. And if you think about it, what bank could survive that? By this stage, we tried our absolute best. We were having daily board meetings, and sometimes two board meetings a day. But I will say this: every step we took was hand in hand with our own [Financial] regulator, the Central Bank, and what really gets me now is the same people -- most of them are still there -- and their political bosses are trying to disown us. And if I'm going to take responsibility for my role, they must take responsibility too.
I would say in my own defence, that (as Anglo chief executive) I acted at all times in the interests of the bank and not only with the knowledge, but with the full co-operation and backing of our Financial Regulator and the Central Bank, and obviously with proper legal advice wherever it was required."

... the spin out there is that there were all sorts of hidden losses on the books and reckless lending and so on and so forth, which just totally ignores the fact that the market began to melt really badly in early 2009, which has created some of the issues for all the banks.

The Government has to decide which poison it wants to take. Did it agree with our accounts in 2008? I presume it did because it signed them. Or did they sign the accounts knowing that those accounts were misleading? You have to choose one. The next thing I would say is the horrendous losses that have been reported for the bank breaks out into two categories. There are the losses created through the transfers to Nama, and there are the ones that didn't go into Nama that would have occurred anyway because of the meltdown in the economy. Anglo, as a bank, was forced to sell half its loan book at a 50 or 60 per cent discount and the losses that transaction created were €22bn. So, in other words, that was a choice to create that loss. Anglo is now reported as having the biggest losses of any bank in the world. Does that seem right to you?