Nyberg sceptical that Oireachtas banking inquiry will find new information

Monday 30 September 2013 07.07
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Peter Nyberg: doubts on new banking inquiry
Peter Nyberg: doubts on new banking inquiry
Minister of State Brian Hayes has warned banks they must meet the targets set down to deal with households in mortgage arrears
Minister of State Brian Hayes has warned banks they must meet the targets set down to deal with households in mortgage arrears

The author of a key report into Ireland's banking collapse has expressed doubts as to whether an Oireachtas banking inquiry would bring any new information into the public domain.

Peter Nyberg who produced his Government-commissioned report in 2011 also said a repeat of the European financial crisis is a very real risk.

"I would be pretty surprised if the parliamentary inquiry would uncover something new," Mr Nyberg said in an exclusive interview for RTÉ Radio 1's This Week programme. 

The former Finnish finance ministry director-general believed that the reason those interviewed for his 2011 report were prepared to co-operate fully was the condition of anonymity they were offered.

Asked whether he believed they would be as forthcoming in front of an Oireachtas Committee, he told This Week: "I wouldn't be very sure of that".

He also said that a repeat of the European financial crisis is  possible. 

"To be perfectly frank, I think the lessons of the last crisis have not been learned," he said.

He believed his report gained more information because he guaranteed not to identify those who assisted. 

"It was clear in several instances that the basis that they were pretty forthcoming was a result of them being guaranteed anonymity. That was why it was decided that no quotes and no names would be forthcoming."

Anglo tapes gave 'very little additional evidence'

Mr Nyberg also said that tapes of conversations at the time of the banking crisis between senior executives in Anglo Irish bank, published by the Irish Independent, revealed little new information:

"I read the transcript, or part of it in transcript, on the newspapers. I hadn't known that before and from what I read they provided very little additional evidence on anything.

"They did give a very lively and unpleasant feeling for the kind of hubristic company culture that existed in Anglo at the time. But other than that it didn't seem that there was substantial new evidence or facts that came to light," said Mr Nyberg.

Asked if he had heard the Anglo tapes while preparing his report, he said he had not.

Mr Nyberg also declined to comment on the level of co-operation he received during his inquiry from Anglo executives or other individuals.

"In general I thought it was quite satisfactory from the point of view of what we tried to achieve. I wouldn't wish to make any detailed comments on any specific persons or groups of persons within banks".

Mr Nyberg believes that any inquiry into the failures in Irish banks and regulation should examine issues such as why those who urged caution were not heeded.  

"There were a few individuals who clearly tried to warn various institutions about what might be coming but they weren't listened to. It might be interesting to understand why they weren't".

He was also very critical of the banking supervision structures currently being formulated at European level.

Banks warned over mortgage arrear targets

Elsewhere, Minister of State Brian Hayes has warned banks they must meet the targets set down to deal with households in mortgage arrears.

The Fine Gael minister said a failure to achieve this could result in the Central Bank requiring banks to hold more money in reserve.

This would affect the banks' medium and long terms profits, the Minister told RTÉ's The Week in Politics.

He said banks must offer people some opportunity to get out of the appalling situations they find themselves in.

Sinn Féin's Pearse Doherty said there were 98,000 home owners in mortgage distress, but the banks' only response in many cases was the threat of repossession.

He said the governor of the Central Bank must make it clear this approach is not acceptable.