Senator David Norris' address to Seanad Eireann (the Irish Senate)
In Sept. 2007, fourteen months before Ireland's bank bailout, I resigned from my position as the Risk Manager of UniCredit Bank Ireland. I did that in order not to incriminate myself. I have spent the last 4 years seeking justice. On Feb. 23rd., 2010, I was fortunate to have Senator David Norris raise the matter in Seanad Eireann (the Irish Senate), and request a response from the Minister of Finance, Mr. Brian Lenihan. Senator Norris concluded by stating that:VRT, Belgian state-TV, aired this interview with me on March 6th., 2013. My Interview begins in minute 27:
"...there is ministerial responsibility in this matter. This is a grossly serious matter which has been reported to the Financial Regulator. A man has lost his job as a result. He honourably resigned. The degree of breach was 40 times the accepted margin. This is a disaster. If we are not prepared to face the issue and investigate it when it has been laid before the House, there is absolutely no hope for the financial system or its reputation worldwide...How can the Financial Regulator investigate himself? He was in breach of his responsibility."In Nov. 2011, Emma Alberici, Europe correspondent for ABC TV, told my story as part of her documentary 'Going Rogue' which featured Nick Leeson and Sir John Vickers among other interviewees. It is ironic that at a time when the Irish tax-payer is bailing out un-secured bond holders, my story which occurred in Dublin, is deemed of interest to the Australian TV license payer. Please click on 'play video' on the following link:
Het verdriet van Europa: Zeepbellen blazen (The sadness of Europe: Bursting bubbles)
VRT, Belgian state-TV, released extra footage of my interview on March 8th., 2013. (in English):
Thursday, 17 October 2013
Tuesday, 10 September 2013
Sunday, 18 August 2013
FOR those of us who love this great little country, or are stuck here, it has been a sorry third millennium. First, whatever Roddy Doyle thinks, we lost the run of ourselves – economically, socially, environmentally and culturally, becoming bumptious, crude and greedy; then we imploded exposing a legacy of dust and a citizenry bitter, beleaguered, rudderless and above all compliant. But through the turmoil we never seem to
have stopped oﬀ to learn the big lessons – like that our vision of the future needs to be sustainable and compassionate.
Every page of this issue groans under the evidence of lessons unlearnt – from Frank Connolly on Frank Dunlop [p31] to Niall Crowley on philanthropy [p54] to features on the Public Accounts Committee’s approach to the discredited Dublin Docklands Development Authority [p18], planning malpratice [p33],
climate-change scepticism [p56], institutional abuse [p38] and nepotism in the cultural sector [p64].
Nothing is being done properly. It says it all that the answer this country found to Fianna Fáil was Fine Gael. For never have two political parties been so indistinguishable. The same deference to Big Finance and
multinational corporations prevails. For many the solution is a return to the past. But more.
Village’s conclusion is that we need to start over again. Normally it is good to start with a clean page but the page in front of us is ﬁlthy. We have to clean it.If there were any sign the authorities were serious about regulation we might let bygones sit. But from the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to the ﬁnancial regulator to the failure to appoint a planning regulator with teeth to the eviscerated Human Rights and Equality Commission we’re not guarding against the dangers of repeated recklessness.
This magazine feels in the particular circumstances of Ireland 2013, we cannot move on until there has been justice for the perpetrators of the now-embedded dysfunctionality. In a democracy the culture of impunity, especially white-collar impunity, best evidenced in the failure to prosecute on foot of the planning and
payments tribunals and the banking delinquencies, cannot prevail. There must be prosecutability and it must be seen by all.
It is a fundament of our criminal law, recently conﬁrmed in the High Court, that the public, acting as ‘common informer’ may initiate criminal proceedings. If the proceedings are treated summarily they proceed to verdict led by the common informer; if on indictment, the DPP may take them over after the return for trial.Village is asking the DPP to signal the initiation of prosecutions against some of the most obvious potential defendants from the tribunals and banking debacle. These include UniCredit Bank, John Bowes, Michael Fingleton, Michael Lowry, and the protagonists in Monarch Properties found to be corrupt by the Mahon Tribunal.
The oﬀences that should be tried include oﬀences under the Central Bank Acts, detailed on page 30, deceit, fraud, corruption, bribery, perjury and obstruction of tribunals.If the DPP signals no such intent,
Village and its protagonists will seek the issue of a summons in September. A press conference
will be called outlining the stance. It will seek public support for other actions by asking persons
with evidence to come forward, and perhaps engage in fundraising.
The ethos of the DPP must be changed. The lessons for accountability of the allegedly corrupt over the last twenty years are that tribunals were run lazily and proﬂigately. The Planning Tribunal relied too much on the evidence of one man and the Payments Tribunal ran into diﬃculties about the culpability of civil servants. The courts – the criminal courts – not the tribunals, is where these matters should be settled. But clearly the Garda and its Fraud Squad, Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB), the DPP, the Oﬃce of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) and the Central Bank have failed in their solemn duties, presumably for
internal cultural reasons. In those circumstances it falls to private citizens to assert the democratic imperative of prosecutions in a state whose failure is largely attributable to the machinations of a quantiﬁable few.
Village is not looking for heads on sticks, it is not asserting the guilt of anyone (it defends the central presumption of innocence), it is taking the clear position that there appears to be enough evidence that people such as those cited above should at least be prosecuted. Never have institutional minds needed more to be concentrated.
Tuesday, 16 April 2013
In response to emails I received today, here is the item that appeared on RTÉ, Ireland's state-broadcaster, in August of 2012. I am sure that is a simple technical error, but the link now returns an error message (see screen-shot below).
Perhaps this might be the result of cut-backs at RTÉ?
I will be happy to provide a new link to the page, should RTÉ decide to resurrect the page.
Today in the Press - Monday August 27
- Monday August 27Updated: 09:18, Tuesday, 28 August 2012
The Irish Independent reports that the Financial Regulator has refused to reveal what action has been taken in regard to a serious complaint of liquidity irregularities made to his office in 2007 by a whistle-blowing former banker regarding Unicredit Bank Ireland.
It was alleged that the regulator received details that Unicredit Bank Ireland, an offshoot of Italy's biggest bank, had been operating in the IFSC with liquidity levels vastly below what was required by law.
In addition, Jonathan Sugarman, a former executive with Unicredit Bank Ireland, has consistently claimed that the Irish regulator's office took no action regarding his complaint.
Mr Sugarman was appointed risk manager for Unicredit Bank Ireland back in 2007 when it had an operation worth $50bn (€39.94bn) based in Dublin's IFSC.Upon assuming the new position, Mr Sugarman claimed to have noticed serious irregularities in the bank's liquidity levels. The bank was required by law to keep assets and cash in reserve equivalent to 90% of its liabilities. Mr Sugarman says he believed Unicredit was operating in Dublin with cover of just 70%. Having called in independent consultants to confirm his fears, he then claims to have raised the matter with his superior at the bank. He says he was told "not to worry."
However, Mr Sugarman resigned his position and claims he then approached the Irish Financial Regulator's office in late 2007 to report the irregularities -- as required by law.
The weblink that used to work:http://www.rte.ie/news/2012/
Here is the article by Mark Keenan in the Irish Independent, which was referenced by RTE:
Regulator is silent over action taken on UniCredit complaint - Irish Independent
MARK KEENAN – 27 AUGUST 2012
THE Financial Regulator has refused to reveal what action has been taken in regard to a serious complaint of liquidity irregularities made to his office in 2007 by a whistle-blowing former banker regarding Unicredit Bank Ireland.It was alleged that the regulator received details that Unicredit Bank Ireland, an offshoot of Italy's biggest bank, had been operating in the IFSC with liquidity levels vastly below what was required by law.In addition, Jonathan Sugarman, a former executive with Unicredit Bank Ireland, has consistently claimed that the regulator's office took no action regarding his complaint.Mr Sugarman was appointed risk manager for Unicredit Bank Ireland back in 2007 when it had an operation worth $50bn (€39.94bn) based in Dublin's IFSC.Upon assuming the new position, Mr Sugarman claimed to have noticed serious irregularities in the bank's liquidity levels. The bank was required by law to keep assets and cash in reserve equivalent to 90pc of its liabilities. Mr Sugarman says he believed Unicredit was operating in Dublin with cover of just 70pc. Having called in independent consultants to confirm his fears, he then claims to have raised the matter with his superior at the bank. He says he was told "not to worry."However, Mr Sugarman resigned his position and claims he then approached the Irish Financial Regulator's office in late 2007 to report the irregularities -- as required by law.FraudHe claims the Irish regulator did nothing about his complaint.Alessandro Profumo, who was CEO of the accused bank's parent company, Unicredit -- from 1997 to 2010 and during the period covered by Mr Sugarman's complaint -- is now preparing to go on trial for fraud in Italy on October 1.Mr Profumo and 16 past and present employees of Unicredit will have to answer charges that they had cooked the books to defraud the Italian taxpayer out of €245m taxes on profits.The charges relate directly to practices during the period 2007 to 2008.When contacted on this matter, the Financial Regulator Matthew Elderfield said in a statement that: "The Central Bank met with Mr Sugarman and received some information from him and took the appropriate action."When the Irish Independent enquired about what the regulator meant by "appropriate action", the regulator's office said there would be no more correspondence on the matter.Late last year investigators from Australia's state-run ABC TV network also contacted the Irish regulator's office to ask what had come of Mr Sugarman's complaint against Unicredit Ireland.In a reply late last year, ABC says it received a letter from the Irish Financial Regulator's office to say that it was still examining the allegations first brought by Mr Sugarman.Yesterday Fianna Fail's finance spokesman Michael McGrath said: "It is essential that the Irish Financial Regulator should account for how the complaint -- dating to late 2007 and relating to liquidity reserves -- has been dealt with."Mr Sugarman could not be contacted by the Irish Independent.http://www.independent.ie/
business/irish/regulator-is- silent-over-action-taken-on- unicredit-complaint-26891235. html
Monday, 25 March 2013
Further to recent comments I made on Twitter regarding the silence of Dublin & Berlin about what German banks got up to in the IFSC [Irish Financial Services Centre], I have received a number of emails asking for further information. My response to these emails is to simply quote a sub-article of the article that was written about me by Fintan O'Toole in the Irish Times. The article was published on Saturday, 3 April, 2010.
The finance manager who tried to play by the rules
- Fintan O'Toole, Irish Times, Saturday, 3 April, 2010
The experience of this former IFSC banker is a parable of Celtic Tiger Ireland, illustrating the culture of light touch regulation that led the country to NAMA and bank bailouts....
: The lure of the IFSC
Catastrophic as this week's [Irish, JS] banking bailout figures are, they could actually have been much worse. It is a matter of sheer luck that in 2007, before the credit crunch, a Dublin-based bank called Depfa was bought by the German financial group Hypo Real Estate. Very few people in Ireland had ever heard of Depfa. Although it was as German as sauerkraut, it was actually the largest bank in Ireland - bigger than AIB. It was, in legal and regulatory terms, an entirely Irish company. When the financial crisis unfolded, Depfa brought down Hypo. The cost to the German government so far is €102 billion.
The IFSC [Irish Financial Services Centre, JS], where Depfa was based, provides 25,000 jobs, and at its height brought in well over €1 billion a year in taxes. The downside was that, as well as low corporate taxes, part of the attraction for foreign banks was light regulation. And the need to keep these banks sweet reinforced the ultimately disastrous idea that all our regulators should fight in the featherweight division.
Ireland already suffered, as the Dail's [parliament] Dirt inquiry put it, from "a particularly close and inappropriate relationship between banking and the State and its agencies...[who] were perhaps too mindful of the concerns of the banks, and too attentive to their pleas and lobbying".
These lobbies were immensely strengthened by the growth of the IFSC. The problem was that, as well as having many legitimate operations, the IFSC also contained brass-plate tax-avoidance operations that earned it the tittle of 'Liechtenstein on the Liffey' and sharp operators that led the new York Times to label it 'The Wild West of European Finance'. Yet, even after IFSC-based companies were involved in three spectacular frauds - Europe's biggest corporate collapse (Parmalat); a $500 million fraud by the American Insurance Group (AIG); and the largest single collapse in Australian history - there was no attempt to enhance the regulatory regime. Banks like Anglo Irish couldn't be subject to serious regulation without imposing the same rules at the IFSC. And the absolute understanding was that no one at the IFSC was to be given the slightest cause for anxiety.-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
It is not for me to comment about who brought who down - Depfa, or Hypo Real Estate, but I do recommend reading these blog postings by David Malone on his Golem XIV blog:
David McWilliams, an Irish economist, made a very interesting remark when interviewed for German TV (in English)
Sunday, 17 March 2013
A small storm has begun to form in Belgium this morning. The centre of the storm is a comment made on a Belgian television documentary (begins 26 minutes in) by none other than Jonathan Sugarman, AKA WhistleblowerIRL, whom the Village Magazine called the most significant whistleblower in Ireland.
You have to hand it to Sugarman. He has a knack for giving the authorities heartburn. I wrote an update about his case at the time of the Village Magazine piece which filled in a couple of interesting details.
This time he happened to mention as an example of the total lack of financial regulatory oversight in Ireland during the bubble years the Belgian Bank KBC. As Sugarman said, just this month KBC Belgium had to give KBC Ireland another €100 million in order to bail it out. To illustrate how KBC had got itself into the state where it is still being bailed out by the Belgian tax payer via its parent company, he told how he himself had been given a mortgage by KBC in Ireland. As he said in the interview,
“When I looked at the forms I had to fill in for KBC Ireland, it was a joke. I could have said I was Mickey Mouse and I work in La la land and I would still have a million euro to buy a house with maybe was woth 200 000 euro. Did anybody ask questions. No. The bank is growing. Where’s the problem.”
Where indeed? What he didn’t say in the interview is that the bank did not actually bother to value the property he was buying before it gave him the mortgage. It looked at the house next door and guessed.
So now given the continued bleeding and rotting going on inside KBC as well as the epic implosion of Dexia and the fact that, as in Ireland, no one has been held responsible, there are questions being asked in Belgium that powerful people don’t want asked.
Back in 2010 I wrote an article about the way German banks used Ireland as a dark pit for doing deals they could not do elsewhere. It was called Ireland was Germany’s Off-shore Tart. It seems she was Belgium’s tart too.
What Sugarman’s story reveals above all is how no one in power, whether that be financial, political or media power, wants any questions asked or truths exposed. Sugarman has been ignored by everyone in the Irish establishment: his bank, the banks regulator, all the Irish political parties, all the newspapers and I was there when he told his story to one of Ireland’s top TV journalists only to never hear from him again.
Sugarman was the risk manager who resigned from Unicredit when his warnings to senior management, that the bank was routinely failing to hold enough capital to protect depositors from a bank run, were being ignored.
Irish law says clearly a breach of the minimum holdings of even 1% must be notified to the regulator immediately. He was finding UniCredit being routinely 19% short. When he asked an independent company to check his figures they told him the breaches were as high as 40%. This means the bank was short billions. Such a shortfall means if there was run on the bank it would not have a hope of surviving.
Sugarman was ignored and told to stop complaining. He resigned.
A month later Northern Rock collapsed when a run on the bank exhausted its cash reserves. A year later the Irish banks collapsed.
You might have thought the Irish Bank regulator would want to know what Sugarman had to say. You’d be wrong. The Irish regulator has gone out of his way to ignore him. I have been privy to all the emails and correspondence and it is a shameful and tawdry story of obfuscation, lying and threats. Meetings where he was told he could come and tell the regulator what he knew, but that if he revealed any wrong doing by the bank that occurred during the time he was there, the regulator would have to report him to the police. Despite the fact he had been the one trying to raise the alarm.
And so it is that Sugarman has been interviewded by Australian television, Belgian television,Greek television, interviewed by the major Greek newspaper Kathemarini (which is affiliated with the NY Times) which was picked up, written about and made available to an English speaking audience by the noted and respected British financial journalist Ian Fraser on his blog,
And all the while there has been nothing in Ireland.
If it were just the banks who we had to fight for truth and justice life would be easy. But we are fighting our own political class and our media as well.
We are not all in this together. They are all in it together, against us. We are on our own.
Wednesday, 6 March 2013
Ian Fraser, a UK-based journalist who writes & comments for the Financial Times and the BBC - among others, recently wrote about my interview with Greece's Kathimerini (The IHT/New-York Times affiliate in Greece).
"In September 2007, a year before Ireland’s banks went belly up, Jonathan Sugarman, risk manager Unicredit Bank Ireland, alerted his bosses and regulators at the Central Bank of Ireland to the fact that Unicredit was in massive breach of liquidity requirements. The law was clear: liquidity cover was allowed to fall to 89 per cent but any lower and a report had to be filed with the regulator and the bank faced a fine. Sugarman identified that Unicredit was operating with cover of just 70 per cent, twenty times less than allowed. But his superiors at the bank and the regulators were intensely relaxed about the law-breaking. After six weeks of being stonewalled, Sugarman decided he had no choice other than to resign, as he did not wish to incriminate himself. Now a whistleblower, he has spent five years seeking to raise awareness of the failures of both the Irish central bank and Unicredit. He was interviewed by Kathimerini, the Greek affiliate of the New York Times."To read further, please visit Ian Fraser's blog at:
Here is the first page of the article as it appeared in Greece: