There’s a most interesting and pertinent piece of political writing in today’s Irish Times by Miriam Lord. She watched high-ranking bankers appear before the Oireachtas Finance Committee.
Eighteen months ago…
…when the same Oireachtas committee wanted to ask the same banks about the way they conducted their business, fewer chairmen and chief executives deigned to turn up. To add insult to injury, the bankers then proceeded to talk down to the worried politicians, assuring them their fundamentals were sound.
…Richie Boucher, before his big promotion, was present back in July of 2008. “Unequivocally,” he declared, “we do not believe there is a Northern Rock lurking in Ireland.”
His colleague, David Guinan, stated: “We pride ourselves on the fact that we have been and continue to be very prudent and responsible.” Donal Forde of the AIB offered the following gem: “In regard to lending standards in AIB, we have behaved very responsibly in recent years and we have maintained a very prudent credit stance.” (Correct. There was a whole shed load of them.)
The highlight of the committee meeting was supplied by Willie McAteer, then executive director of Anglo Irish Bank. “Clearly, the whole perception of Ireland and the negative sentiment towards it are obviously of concern to us. However, this sentiment is not borne out by the fundamentals.”
Here’s another rib-tickler from Willie: “I reject the suggestion that banks have been foolhardy in recklessly lending and driving up values . . . in my experience, the banks have been prudent.”
The Bank of Ireland went so far as to say it wouldn’t have to go back to the Government next year for a further handout. Sheehy was similarly upbeat about AIB.
Do you believe them this time ’round?