I was interested in some FOI work that Deputy Joan Burton had been doing lately on Anglo Irish Bank, so I contacted her and asked for any documents or refusals she had received. She was kind enough to copy everything and post them down to me. I have now scanned and OCRd the documentation.
First up is Ireland’s notification to the European Commission surrounding the injection of €1.5bn of capital into the bank. It runs to over 50 pages and contains some curious stuff. Many of the handwritten notes are I believe by Deputy Burton herself, or her staff. But there are other curious oddities, some of which are highlighted.
Firstly the document appears to have been poorly redacted. There are strikethroughs throughout the document with notes afterwards such as “[Confidential – commercially sensitive][Department to confirm]”. What appears to have happened is that a draft of the document was released, rather than a redacted version. The draft contains the internal notes around what should or should not be redacted. One gem (and this is dated January 2008) is “Anglo Irish Bank is considered a fundamentally sound institution”. With a note beside saying it might be “commercially sensitive” to say so.
Not alone that, but further down it says (with a line through it)
The assessment by Merrill Lynch supports the position that Anglo Irish Bank is fundamentally sound.[Confidential – commercially sensitive][Department to confirm]
Another gem which was marked for redaction, marking points arguing in favour of capital injection:
The assessment that there was a low likelihood that Anglo Irish Bank would be successful in raising additional equity from existing shareholders and new private investors Confidential – commercially sensitive][Department to confirm]
Also this very interesting paragraph around future planning:
As noted above, on account of Anglo Irish Bank’s specific business model, which is specialised in commercial property lending and property development finance, not all of the elements of the agreed credit package will directly impact on Anglo Irish Bank, at least initially.
However, given the envisaged future changes in the Bank’s business model and strategic direction under its restructuring plan, it is anticipated that in time further elements of the credit package will become applicable to Anglo Irish Bank accordingly[Confidential —commercially sensitive for Anglo Irish Bank] [Department to confirm]
Finally, there is this further reference to Anglo’s future:
On account of Anglo Irish Bank’s specific business model, which is specialised in commercial property lending and property development finance, not all of the elements of the agreed credit package will directly impact on Anglo Irish Bank, at least initially.
However, given the requirement to prepare a restructuring plan within a six month period as part of the recapitalisation initiative, future changes in the business model and strategic direction of Anglo Irish Bank are likely to bring about a closer alignment between the lending activities of the Bank and the credit needs of the real economy. As a result it is anticipated that in-time further elements of the credit package will become applicable to Anglo Irish Bank accordingly.[Confidential – business secret] [Department to confirm].
Of course questions need to be asked. This document is dated January 8. The Government already had the PwC reports into Anglo and must have had some idea of the scale of the problems at the bank. Yet Merrill was still claiming Anglo was fundamentally sound just a week before the bank was nationalised. Not alone that, all references to the bank being fundamentally sound were marked for redaction.
There is one final section that sums up the entire sorry mess, my emphasis:
Anglo Irish Bank is a focused business bank with a private banking arm. The Bank provides business banking, treasury and wealth/management services. It is not a universal bank and its stated strategy is niche rather than broad market. Each of its customers deals directly with a dedicated relationship manager and a product specialist.
Yet in the same breath we are told the Anglo is of systemic importance. So which is it?