Former Anglo official sought legal advice after being told to change minutes of meeting, trial hears

By Sarah-Jane Murphy

The former company secretary at Anglo Irish Bank said she sought legal advice after being told to change the minutes of a meeting due to “differences in interpretation”, a jury has heard.

Natasha Mercer said she consulted lawyers after the bank's chairman, Donal O'Connor, asked her to amend minutes of a meeting of the bank's audit committee, months after it had taken place.

Ms Mercer was continuing her evidence today on day 32 of David Drumm's conspiracy to defraud trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

David Drumm

The former chief executive of the bank accepts that in 2008 transactions worth €7.2bn took place between Anglo and Irish Life & Permanent (ILP) but he disputes they were fraudulent or dishonest.

Ms Mercer said she wanted to know her legal obligations regarding the final version of the minutes, because there were differences between what she had written down and what Mr O'Connor recalled.

“The advice I got was that the chairman of a meeting has the final say, that his record is the correct record” she said.

Ms Mercer said many matters concerned her, mainly that she had no recollection of the terms “balance sheet management” or “window dressing” being said, while Mr O'Connor maintained they were.

She agreed with Brendan Grehan SC, defending, that lawyers said she was “covered” once Mr O'Connor signed off on the minutes of the meeting held on November 18, 2008.

The court heard the final wording of the minutes confirmed the ILP transactions were in the nature of normal year-end balance activity, and that the Financial Regulator and Ernst & Young had no issues.

During cross-examination, Ms Mercer denied Mr O'Connor had told her to “shut up” when she challenged him on three different occasions regarding his instruction to change the minutes.

She said in January 2009 there was “a lot of two-ing and fro-ing” about the references to Anglo's September transactions with ILP. Sean Fitzpatrick had stepped down as chairman and was replaced by Mr O'Connor.

Mr Grehan referred to a statement given by Matt Moran, former Anglo chief finance officer, to gardaí during their investigation.

Mr Moran said Ms Mercer told him she challenged Mr O'Connor three times regarding their differing recollection of the meeting, and said he had told her to shut up.

“At that stage Matt, I had done my job,” Mr Moran recalled her saying.

However, Ms Mercer told the jury that Mr O'Connor had never spoken to her like that. She said she didn't recall the discussion with Mr Moran but agreed it was possible it had taken place.

The witness agreed that although her handwritten minutes of three board meetings held in September 2008 contained references to the ILP transactions, her typed minutes of the same meetings did not.

Mr Drumm, with an address in Skerries, Co Dublin, has pleaded not guilty to conspiring with former bank officials Denis Casey, William McAteer, John Bowe and others to defraud depositors and investors at Anglo by “dishonestly” creating the impression that deposits in 2008 were €7.2 billion larger than they were.

He has also pleaded not guilty to false accounting on December 3, 2008, by furnishing information to the market that Anglo's 2008 deposits were €7.2 billion larger than they were.

The trial, now in its fourth week, continues before Judge Karen O'Connor and a jury.

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