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Archive for April 6th, 2010

The Pariahs (1 of 3)

(From left: bankrupt Sean Fitzgerald, former CEO and then Chairman of Anglo Irish Bank, Willie McAteer, finance director and chief risk at Anglo officer and David Drumm, former CEO of Anglo)

Part 1 – “The Ends of the Earth”

Below is an example of an exchange between media and politics where two clever people resort to populist language and motif with the aim of entertaining and satisfying their respective audiences:

From RTE Prime Time, 30 March 2010

Miriam O’Callaghan : And you have decided Minister to take the debts of bankers and developers, some of whom are probably sipping champagne tonight in the Costa del Sol and put those on the backs of every man, woman and child in this country for generations to come.

Brian Lenihan : No we’re not putting the debt of a single developer on the back of anyone. We’re chasing developers to the ends of the earth. That should be (become) quite obvious to your viewers at this stage.

It has been said about us Irish that we’ll look at the man with the mansion on top of the hill and  think “What a bastard, he doesn’t deserve to have more than us” whereas our cousins across the water in America will look at the same man  and say to themselves “Good on him, now how do I get one of those myself”.  And this Irish attitude is pervasive in media reporting – whether it’s the former Anglo Chairman being able to scoff down €22 beef Wellington a kilometre north of Puerto Banus or a director of Treasury Holdings whose weekend in Marrakech came in for considerable scrutiny or indeed Miriam O’Callaghan’s reference to “sipping champagne” in the sun, no description of bankers or developers is complete without having a pot-shot at a decadent display of wealth. Of course it raises the heckles and plays to the general audience and when we’re confronting the fallout day-in day-out of the banking and property crisis, it gives us a target at which we can direct our ire and get some release.

But Brian Lenihan is playing the same game telling us the borrowers will be pursued to the “ends of the earth”. Well David Drumm, former Anglo CEO, is presently in residence in the US, he says following advice from current Chairman of Anglo, Donal O’Connor to avoid “the blame culture” of Ireland and Britain. Anglo is apparently pursuing David Drumm for loans of €8.3m. Whilst the nature of the loans would exclude their inclusion in NAMA, it is instructional to see how Anglo will go about recovering the loans because NAMA is likely to be faced with similar challenges. Anglo has according to the article in  the Irish Times launched legal action against David Drumm. So where are the ends of the earth for David Drumm? Well, thanks to Google and the internet, not to mention Charlie Bird we are able to pin point David Drumm’s location pretty accurately and here goes:

And having found him, what next for getting back the €8.3m loan? Plainly I cannot comment on David Drumm’s personal circumstances though it was an interesting footnote to Charlie Bird’s doorstepping extravaganza last week that RTE consulted a local reporter – Charlie Bird said : “According to a local reporter, in recent times Mr Drumm changed the legal status of his home on Stage Neck Road.” Local reporter on the Cape Cod Times, Sarah Schmenkus then went on to say “He bought it in 2008, March 2008 for $4.6m and since then in July 2009 he did what is called declaring a homestead, basically it’s a primary residence and is protected up to a value of $500,000 against claims from people to which (sic) you owe money”

Plainly I don’t know any of the details or terms under which Anglo lent money to David Drumm. I know David Drumm has a family because that’s what he said when Charlie Bird asked him why he was “ducking down” on the News at Six programme. “Have some respect” Charlie!. What I do know is that Anglo have made a provision for non-payment of €6.7m. Making a provision of course is not the same as writing off a debt, it is simply the bank’s judgement of the likely sum to be recovered. We also know Anglo have launched legal action to recover the sum owing. I don’t know whether David Drumm gave personal guarantees for the loans – as a CEO earning almost €6m per annum, perhaps Anglo didn’t see the need for a personal guarantee. And the wealthy have a range of devices open to them to protect their wealth, either for their own benefit or for their families, devices which include the creation of trusts, bankruptcy protection measures such as the homestead declaration above to the use of corporations. Again I have no idea whether David Drumm has opted to make use of such devices but he would appear to fit the wealth profile of people who might avail of advice with respect to such devices.

What all of this means is that an individual can be pursued to the ends of the earth for debts that they owe, that they might still enjoy what for many of us would be a luxury lifestyle and there is nothing to stop them continuing to enjoy that lifestyle whilst defending actions to extract money from them, actions that might ultimately fail and which may still leave those individuals with the use/control of fantastic wealth.

Part 2 will examine our attitudes towards the pariahs and Part 3 will address whether these pariahs can positively contribute to the State and society in the future.

Part 2 – “It wasn’t me that burned your shed down”

Part 3 – Rehabilitating images and reputations

UPDATE: 17th May, 2010, In Dublin, Ireland, the Irish Times reported that the Commercial Court set a date for the hearing of a claim by David Drumm’s former employer, Anglo Irish Bank, regarding the repayment of  €8.3m ($10.5m) of loans. The loans were apparently provided by Anglo in January 2008. Anglo are also seeking to have a transfer of property by David Drumm to his wife Lorraine at Malahide, Dublin nullified. According to the report in the Irish Times “Anglo claims the transfer of that property into Mrs Drumm’s name is a fraud on creditors but the couple claim the transfer was for “taxation reasons”.” David Drumm is countersuing his former employer for €2.6m for lost pay and benefits including a deferred bonus for 2006 for €661,000. The hearing of the case is now set for 26th October, 2010. UPDATE: 6th June, 2010. Ireland’s Sunday Tribune claims that David Drumm is seeking to settle the action and cross-action prior to the full hearing. No further details are provided though we are reminded that Minister for Finance, Brian Lenihan must ultimately rubberstamp any agreement.  One would have thought David Drumm’s chance of a settlement would improve as NAMA itself is starting to confront the reality that money will not be fully recoverable. UPDATE: 16th June, 2010. David Drumm is reported by the Irish Times to be apparently trying to have Anglo’s case against him thrown out because Anglo has failed to produce certain documentation. The case continues. UPDATE: 17th June, 2010. RTE reports that the Commercial Court in Dublin has given Anglo more time to deal with the discovery of documentation and accordingly has not thrown out its case against former employee and officer David Drumm.UPDATE: 5th July, 2010. The Irish Times reports that David Drumm has, via an open letter (ie one that can be produced in court at a later date), made an offer to settle the case against him and it is reported that the celebrated, no-nonsense Mr Justice Peter Kelly has given Ango two weeks to consider the offer. David Drumm won a minor victory today in that he was awarded his costs in relation to his action to force Anglo to disclose certain documents which Anglo had resisted. Notwithstanding the present offer for settlement, the case is due to be heard in October 2010 and Anglo have also applied to have the transaction set aside whereby David Drumm transferred his house in Dublin to his wife. UPDATE: 19th July, 2010. The Irish Times reports that Anglo have rejected David Drumm’s proposals to settle but have made counter proposals to David Drumm to which he has until 30th July, 2010 to accept failing which the case will be set down for a substantive hearing on 26th October, 2010. Details of the Anglo counter proposal have not been published.UPDATE: 31st July, 2010. The Irish Times reports that the parties have not reached a settlement though apparently discussions may continue and the hearing remains set down for 26th October, 2010. The first part of the hearing will deal with Anglo’s claim for its loan and David Drumm’s counterclaim for unpaid termination pay and bonus and damages for mental stress. There may then follow a hearing of Anglo’s application to have David Drumm’s transfer of his home in Malahide Dublin to his wife set aside.

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This is an estimate extrapolated from figures produced by Bank of Ireland last week and reported in the Independent today.  Bank of Ireland has 199,000 of the 800,000-odd residential mortgages in the State and has estimated that 21.5% of its customers are in negative equity and that the average net debt of those in negative equity is €38,000. BoI’s figures are in line with ESRI estimates of upto 200,000 being in negative equity by the end of 2010. The ESRI have also predicted that it will take upto 10 years for some to escape the burden of negative equity (though consulting the ESRI reports it is difficult to see how this has been arrived at, though given the government assumption that net immigration in the next 16 years will be 0-600,000 and NO account has been taken of negative migration, one wonders whether they are aligning property prices with realistic population demand).

The immediate effect of negative equity is a slow down in consumer spending and an unwillingness to sell and realise the loss in cash. If negative equity is combined with greater unemployment or lower wages the prospect of mass repossessions comes into view together with large scale sell-offs of distressed property.

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Predictably sold-out already, NAMA will be hosted in Belfast by the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce on 14th May, 2010 when Frank Daly and Brendan McDonagh together with the lesser-known Peter Steward, NAMA board member and chairman of the Northern Ireland Advisory Committee in NAMA, will hold forth on NAMA and what it means for the local economy in Northern Ireland. The event is scheduled to last less than 2 hours and will be of immense interest in particular to those in the Northern Irish banking and property communities but more generally to those who have many questions for how NAMA is operating – the latest today is that NAMA is considering reducing its threshold loan from €5m to €1m which presently applies to AIB, BoI and Anglo (EBS and INBS are not affected) – page 8 (bottom) of draft NAMA business plan.

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