Anglo trial told Seán Quinn transaction 'unusual in a number of ways'

Saturday 08 March 2014 09.34
Patrick Whelan (L), Sean Fitzpatrick and William McAteer (R) deny giving illegal loans to 16 people
Patrick Whelan (L), Sean Fitzpatrick and William McAteer (R) deny giving illegal loans to 16 people

A former executive from global investment bank Morgan Stanley has told the Anglo Irish Bank trial that a transaction in July 2008, which is now the subject of criminal charges, was unusual in a number of ways, including the Financial Regulator's involvement.

Harry Eddis, an in-house solicitor at Morgan Stanley, was giving evidence by video link from London at the trial of Anglo's former chairman and two former directors of the bank.

Seán FitzPatrick, Patrick Whelan and William McAteer deny giving illegal loans to 16 people to buy shares in the bank.

Mr Whelan also denies being involved in fraudulently altering seven loan facility letters.

Mr Eddis was an advisor in the investment bank's role in the unwinding of the stake businessman Seán Quinn had in the bank through Contracts for Difference in July 2008.

The unwinding involved ten customers of the bank and six members of the Quinn family buying a portion of the shares in which Mr Quinn had an interest.

Mr Eddis told the court there were elements to the transaction that were unusual, including Anglo's involvement.

He said the issuer of the share did not usually have an involvement in such transactions.

"Typically speaking people who buy shares in a listed company do not involve the issuer of the shares in their actions," he said. 

"It was unusual that Anglo had power of attorney over the shares in the transaction."

He also said the fact that the Financial Regulator had "been involved and seemed to have sort of sought this transaction to happen" was not something that was usual.

"You might speak to a regulator to see if they were comfortable but would not often see a regulator take part or seem to be suggesting a certain type of transaction should take place. That is not something I had seen before," he said.

He was asked about a conference call with Con Horan of the Financial Regulator's office on 12 July 2008.

His note of the call records Mr Horan's perspective as being "fine, nothing out of the ordinary and going ahead, very happy to have a call with the FSA".

He said the FSA was a reference to the English regulator. He had asked Mr Horan if he would "have a call with the English regulator to ensure they were kept up to speed with what was happening".

Morgan Stanley contacted the FSA two days later. Mr Eddis said the purpose of the call was "to give the English regulator the heads up as to the transaction and effectively elicit whether he had any red flags from an initial view".

He deferred to the Irish regulator and said if they were happy as the main regulator of the exchange where the shares were listed then they would be comfortable.

In cross-examination, he agreed that the word approval from a regulator would usually only be used where it was legally required.

"You rarely get approval from a regulator unless you legally require it," he said.

Mr Eddis said the word "noted" was often used but his understanding of this was when a regulator was reserving its position.

He said in his understanding the word "comfortable" was showing a greater degree of satisfaction in that they had looked into it a bit further and did not see anything that would immediately give cause for concern.

Mr Eddis said he was brought in as an advisor to the transaction to carry out due diligence to make sure there was nothing wrong with the transaction that would later affect Morgan Stanley's reputation.

He agreed that the transaction seemed "logical and reasonable".