Anglo dealings with Financial Regulator compared to 'Yes Minister' farce

A witness at the trial of three former Anglo Irish Bank executives has been asked is there a touch of the British comedy 'Yes Minister' in the bank's dealings with the Financial Regulator in 2008.

“Is there a touch of ‘Yes Minister’ going on here?” counsel asked Matt Moran, the bank's ex-chief financial officer, referring to the British 1980s comedy programme.

“I think it’s difficult for me to comment on such a remark,” Mr Moran replied.

Counsel asked Mr Moran if he had heard of the term plausible deniability which he defined as: “Being involved in something, controlling it, but not appearing above the waterline line so if any questions were asked later it could be said in a plausible way you were not involved.”

“Am I right in suggesting that’s the flavour of things?” counsel said.

“That appeared to be the case,” Mr Moran replied.

He was being cross-examined by lawyers for the bank's former chairman Sean FitzPatrick about attempts to unwind Sean Quinn's large stake in the bank in March 2008 following a crash in the market.

Sean FitzPatrick ,along with former Anglo directors Pat Whelan and Willie McAteer, deny providing unlawful financial assistance to 16 individuals to buy the bank's shares in July 2008.

The jury has heard that the first draft of an agreement included approval from the regulator, which was removed in the second and final draft.

Mr Moran, who has been granted immunity from prosecution, said his understanding was that they were not getting the regulator's approval but that they were getting no objections.

Mr Moran also said that the now collapsed Lehman Brothers Bank was involved at one stage in helping Mr Quinn unwind his control of the bank by financing the purchase of the shares.

Part of the deal entailed Lehman being granted the Anglo shares as security. However the deal fell through when Lehman refused to promise to not lend out the shares to others for the purposes of short-selling.

Mr Moran agreed the “whole thing could spiral out of control again” and that if Lehman had lent out the shares as it would have destabilised the share price.

Before finishing his evidence, Mr Moran was re-examined by prosecution counsel, Paul O’Higgins SC.

The court heard that after the Quinn position was finally unwound using the “Maple Plan”, the Quinn Group released a public statement to that effect.

Mr Moran agreed that Anglo itself never released a public statement as it had received legal advice saying it was not required to issue a press release.

Mr Moran further agreed that this meant that a member of public buying shares in Anglo would not be aware that the bank had leant money to stabilise its own share price.

Mr Moran has finished his evidence and Judge Martin Nolan has asked the jury of seven men and eight women return on Wednesday for the continuation of the trial.

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