Three former banking executives jailed for roles in Anglo conspiracy

Willie McAteer, Denis Casey and John Bowe handed sentences of between two and three-and-a-half years

Three former banking executives have been jailed for conspiring to defraud the public about the state of Anglo Irish Bank in 2008.

Anglo’s former Finance Director Willie McAteer was handed a three-and-a-half year sentence, while his former colleague John Bowe, who worked as the bank's Head of Capital Markets, was sentenced to two years.

Former Group CEO of Irish Life & Permanent Denis Casey was jailed for two years and nine months.

Their 89-day trial was the longest criminal trial in the history of the State and the guilty verdicts were handed down on various dates last month.

Peter Fitzpatrick, Irish Life & Permanent’s former Finance Director, was acquitted of the same charge.

Dishonest scheme

The court heard the trio engaged in a dishonest scheme that saw €7.2bn in back-to-back transactions moving from Anglo Irish Bank to Irish Life & Permanent between March 2008 and September 2008.

It was a turbulent time on the global financial markets and banks were struggling to secure funding. The scheme was devised following a series of ‘Friday meetings’ attended by senior executives at Anglo Irish Bank.

Money would be transferred from Anglo to IL&P and return to Anglo as a corporate deposit from Irish Life Assurance, a subsidiary of IL&P.

Corporate deposits are a far better measure of a bank’s strength than inter-bank loans and Anglo’s end of year results in September 2008 would have misled investors and depositors into thinking it was in far better health than it actually was.

Mitigation

Today, Judge Nolan accepted they gained no direct profit from the conspiracy and that all three acted in what they thought was the best interests of their companies.

He acknowledged them as “good honourable men” who contributed to their families, communities and the institutions they worked for. He accepted they have suffered greatly for what they did. “They’ve lost their positions in life and been the subjects of public ridicule,” he added.

But given the nature of their crime and its potential to affect thousands of people, he said he had to hand down custodial sentences.

During his Garda interviews, Denis Casey said he would never have authorised the transactions from the IL&P side if it hadn’t been for a meeting he had with the Financial Regulator in 2008. He said he was asked to “pull on the green jersey” and help protect other Irish banks in what was a volatile time on the financial markets.

Judge Nolan said he was aware certain public bodies turned a blind eye and believed Mr Casey’s claim and took it into consideration. He said “we lose all hope in our institutions if we can’t rely on the probity of them”.

Anglo’s accounting firm Ernst & Young were also criticised by Judge Nolan who said they should have known what happened and that it “beggars belief” how they signed off on results as “fair and true” if they knew the situation. He wondered aloud if it was a case of “blindness of wilful blindness”.

Culpability

Turning his attention specifically to Willie McAteer, he described him as a man of “huge experience” who was close to the leadership at Anglo Irish Bank. He said it was a “mystery” to him how he authorised the scheme. He described it as a “huge error of judgement”.

In relation to John Bowe, a man he described as the de facto Head of Anglo’s Treasury department. “Following orders is not an offence”, he said, but “he went along with it”.

He described Denis Casey’s involvement as a “grave error of judgement from a man of vast experience who should have known better”.

There was a deafening silence in the court room after the sentences were handed down and the trio were led into the belly of the building by a group of prison officers shortly afterwards.