herald

Monday 18 December 2017

Andrew Lynch: They may be resented but they still enjoy big fat pensions and comfort

They cannot be allowed to get away with it. As the country comes to terms with the €50bn bill that's just landed on our doorsteps, it beggars belief that the people who crashed the plane are walking away from the wreckage.

The guilty bankers' names are all in the public domain -- and as long as the political will is there, they can still be asked to account for their actions.

The recent reports that the Government commissioned into the property and banking collapses gave us a sense of the big picture but did not bother to single out individuals.

That approach is no longer good enough. If justice is to be done, then we need the men (they are virtually all men) responsible to be stripped of their lavish pay and pension schemes -- and, in some cases, put in the dock for economic treason.

When Sean FitzPatrick resigned from Anglo Irish in December 2008, he still owed the bank €87m. Although he now claims to be living on €188 a month, his wife is still a millionaire.

He has recently been seen golfing in Druid's Glen, holidaying in Marbella and smirking as he got into a Jaguar after his exit from the High Court.

Michael Fingleton earned more than €1m a year as chief executive of Irish Nationwide and retired with a pension pot worth €27m. He also received a bonus payment of €1m, which he has yet to return despite repeated pleas from the Government.

He was last seen rushing away from an RTE reporter's microphone in Dublin airport, where he had just returned from a sun holiday.

And Colm Doherty, the outgoing managing director of AIB, is likely to walk away with an annual payment of more than €100,000 for the rest of his life.

A member of the board since 2003, he was originally paid €622,000 despite the Obama-style €500,000 cap put on bankers' pay by Brian Lenihan. He eventually agreed to drop it to half a million, but this was made up for by an increase in his allowances to €66,000 a year.

While Seanie and Fingers are still financially comfortable, at least they are now household names who will suffer from a certain amount of social humiliation for the rest of their lives. The same cannot be said for some of their colleagues, who share the responsibility for this disaster but have effectively got away scot free.

Dermot Gleeson, the former chairman of AIB, was one of the bankers who persuaded Brian Lenihan to provide a banking guarantee on the momentous night of September 29 two years ago. He received €203,000 when he stepped down from the board and also gets a State pension of €49,481 thanks to his status as a former Attorney General.

Brian Goggin, the former group chief executive at Bank of Ireland, caused outrage when he whined in an RTE interview that his salary would be cut to less than €2m. Shortly afterwards, he stepped down but continues to enjoy an annual pension of €650,000.

Patrick Neary, the Financial Regulator between 2005 and 2008, by common consent did a lousy job of controlling the banks' reckless lending behaviour. When he took early retirement he received a lump sum of €428,000 and a further payment of €202,000. He also receives a pension of €143,000.



blunders

The list goes on, but the overall picture is clear. Most of the banks have refused to have 100pc clear-outs of the directors who were on their boards when the crucial blunders were made.

In the few cases where executives have been forced to retire, they have faded into the background and continue to enjoy lavish lifestyles while ordinary workers pay for their mistakes.

Some of these people are more guilty than others. In many cases, their behaviour was stupid rather than criminal. Given what they have cost the country, however, they must be held to account -- because while it's too late to get the money back, it's never too late to demand justice.

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