Lending director concerned that Maple Ten loan letters were not authorised

Thursday 13 February 2014 21.55
The trial is continuing at the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court
The trial is continuing at the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court

The trial is continuing for a seventh day at the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court of the former chairman of Anglo Irish Bank and two former Anglo executives charged with providing unlawful financial assistance to 16 people to buy shares in the bank.

Seán FitzPatrick, 65, from Greystones in Co Wicklow, 51-year-old Patrick Whelan of Malahide in Dublin and 63-year-old William McAteer of Rathgar in Dublin have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Mr Whelan also denies seven charges of being involved in the fraudulent alteration of loan facility letters in October 2008.

Anglo's former divisional director of lending, Michael O'Sullivan, has been cross-examined by lawyers for Mr Whelan.

Mr O'Sullivan said he had signed a letter changing the terms and conditions of loans to the Maple Ten group of borrowers because Mr Whelan had told him this had been approved by Anglo's chief executive and the board of the bank.

He said he had become concerned when he discovered the new letters, which potentially allowed the borrowers to repay nothing, had not been authorised.

He agreed that the period after the bank guarantee at the end of September 2008 was incredibly turbulent and that people in the bank were under extraordinary pressure.  

He said he had a lot of pressing matters to deal with at that time.

Mr O'Sullivan agreed that after a heated meeting with Mr Whelan in December 2008, they set about restoring the terms of the loans to make the Maple Ten liable to repay 25%.

He agreed that it would be fair to say that Mr Whelan was also trying to solve the problem.

New facility letters restoring the situation were sent out in January 2009.

The court heard nine of the Maple Ten borrowers signed up to the January letters. 

The tenth, Paddy McKillen, did not sign the January letter but wrote to the bank to say he considered himself bound by the original terms of the loan under which he had a liability to repay 25%.

The court heard the original letters offered loans of €60 million each to the Maple Ten.

The actual amount needed to buy shares in Anglo to unwind Seán Quinn's stake in the bank was €45m each.

The court was told that one of the Maple Ten, Jerry Conlan, did ask for further loans in August and September 2008, which along with the loan for buying shares, added up to €60m.

Day Seven: Anglo Irish Bank Trial

The court was told that applications for loans of up to €60 million, which were to be given to the Maple Ten borrowers by Anglo Irish Bank, were not sent to be noted by a non-executive director of the bank, as was normal bank procedure.

But Mr O'Sullivan said the bank officials who prepared the loan documentation had been told the bank's board had approved the transactions.

The court was told that applications for loans over €25m given by Anglo Irish Bank normally had to be "noted" by a non-executive director of the bank who could raise questions about the loans.

In July 2008, the plan was to grant each of the Maple Ten borrowers loans of €60m each.

Mr O'Sullivan was shown an application to the bank's credit committee on behalf of one of the Maple Ten, Seamus Ross, for €60m.

In a box, which asked whether non-executive approval was required for the loan, the letter "N" was written. 

Lawyers for Mr FitzPatrick, asked if this meant the application was never going to be sent to a non-executive director.

Mr O'Sullivan agreed that this was correct.   

He agreed that if a non-executive director had been notified of the loan and had asked questions about it, there would be a record of what he had agreed or permitted.

Senior Counsel Michael O'Higgins said that if this safeguard were going to be departed from, you would have to be certain that the board had been informed of the details of the information in the credit committee application. 

Mr O'Sullivan said the team who prepared the loan documents had been told the bank's board had approved and authorised the transactions.

Mr O'Higgins said the devil was in the detail and the criticism made of the accused was in the detail of the application.

Mr O'Sullivan was asked if the terms of the loans to the Maple Ten were ordinary commercial terms. 

Mr O'Sullivan said he accepted they were commercial loans. 

He said a term under which the borrowers had to repay only 25% of the loans would be reasonable.

Lawyers for Mr Whelan put it to him that of the top 25 loan connections in Anglo at that time, which made up 43% of Anglo's loan book, only five were liable to repay the whole amount of their loans.

Mr O'Sullivan said Anglo in general was very stringent about personal liability. 

He said there were transactions where there was limited personal liability, or limited recourse by the bank, but he said in the main full recourse applied.  

Property developers testify

A fourth member of the Maple 10 group of borrowers has been giving evidence at the Anglo Irish Bank Trial.

Property developer, Gerard Gannon told the trial the bank approached him in July 2008, and said there was an opportunity to buy shares in the bank.

Former chairman of Anglo, Sean Fitzpatrick and two former directors, Patrick Whelan and William McAteer deny giving unlawful loans to 16 people, including the Maple 10, to buy shares in the bank.

Mr Gannon said he was one of the biggest developers in the country in 2008 and agreed he was probably worth €1 billion. 

He said he met former Anglo chief executive David Drumm and Patrick Whelan in July that year. 

He said they did not tell him anything about the situation of the bank at the time but asked him if he would be interested in buying shares in Anglo and offered him funding of up to €60m.  

Mr Gannon said he agreed to buy the shares and later bought more Anglo shares on his own initiative.  He said he always found all people in Anglo honest and truthful.

Another member of the Maple 10, Gerard Maguire described how Mr Drumm and Mr Whelan flew to meet him while he was on holiday in Nice in the South of France in July 2008.   

He said when Mr Whelan rang him to arrange the meeting he knew it was important, as it wasn't the ordinary sort of contact from the bank.  

He said his main motivation in agreeing to the deal was to help the bank, although if there was a profit to be made, he wouldn't turn it down.  

Mr Maguire said he would normally react negatively to being asked to give a personal guarantee on a loan but in this instance he agreed to a clause making him personally liable to repay 25%.

He said he asked if the transaction was legal and was told they wouldn't have approached him if it wasn't and that the Financial Regulator knew about the transaction and approved of it.

Both men said they had been approached by the bank to borrow money to buy shares.  This was in contrast to documents prepared for the bank's credit committee which suggested they had each approached the bank.