Tag Archives: a wunch of bankers

Bags Full Of Crumbs

Mr Banks had had dreams of walking with giants.

And of carving his niche in the edifice of time. He had felt the thrill of totting up a balanced book, a thousand ciphers in a row. When gazing at a graph that showed the profits up, his little cup of joy had overflowed.

He had ground, ground, ground at that grindstone, a sentence that sounds better in the present tense.

But years of daft lending, stupid investments and the previously unknown fact that the word “banker” derives from an old Irish word meaning “thick as porridge” had all caught up with him. The mortgages he had granted had been on houses of cards, the developers he had funded had been under-developed, the seed capital he had provided had been planted on stony soil, or possibly eaten by the bird-woman’s birds. He had backed a company that sold cranberry-flavoured whiskey, which was unfit for drinking, even by Americans.

He had traded in futures, whatever they are, and they were going to cost him his.

Dawes Tomes Mousley Grubbs Fidelity Fiduciary Bank had no money left. Tomorrow morning there would be a run on the bank.

Which was why he now sat in the great marble hallway outside the office in which he would shortly meet his fate.

The door opened, and he was called inside, to be meet the Irish Minister for Finance.

“Ah, Banks,” said the Minister. “We’re going to have to take this very seriously.”

Here we go, thought Mr Banks. “What are you going to do?”

“We’re going to take over your bad loans, guarantee your bank, and repay all of your creditors.”

“Who’s we?”

“The Irish people, of course. A couple with a massive mortgage. A family on the dole. A man with one leg named Smith. People like that.”

“Won’t they object?”

“If they do, they can go fly a kite.”

“And what’s going to happen to me?”

“Well, obviously you’ll have to go. But we won’t sack you, we’ll let you retire, on a massive pension.”

Mr Banks was stunned. Jane and Michael could stay at their private school. Mrs Banks could stay on her endless committees. They wouldn’t have to get rid of their French au-pair, Marie Popin.

“Aren’t you going to punch a hole in my hat?”

“Er, what?”

“Punch a hole in my bowler hat. It’s the greatest punishment that a banker can face.”

The Minister stared at him, and just for a second Mr Banks could see deep, deep anger in his eyes.

“Is that so?” said the Minister. “Well, that explains an awful lot.”

Simple, Really

The Government, reluctantly and under extreme pressure, is to hold an enquiry into what went wrong in the banks.

My prediction (indeed everyone’s prediction) is that they’ll spend a few million and come up with a load of generalised waffle.

I can save them that money (though they can send me some if it, if they wish). The paragraph below tells them everything they need to know.

Joe borrowed money to buy a car which he then wrote off in a crash. Though his asset is gone, he still has to repay the loan. Rich borrowed money to buy shares in Anglo Irish, which were then written off in a banking crash. His asset is gone, so he doesn’t have to repay the money.

That’s the banking culture in a nutshell. It’s better to be rich than an ordinary joe.

They’re welcome.

A Question Of Tort

Would you like to work with us here in the bank?

We are the one profession in Ireland where there have been no pay cuts, no redundancies and no company closures.

We certainly compare favourably with the oldest profession, since we’re not the ones being screwed.

Banks around the world are making money again, from lending at high rates to countries whose economies are shagged because they had to bail us out in the first place, we’ll soon be looking for more staff. So, do you have what it takes to join us? Try this aptitude test….

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  1. If you get this job, will you put on your Facebook page that you work as (a) a slurry-pit cleaner; (b) a recruitment officer for the Taliban; (c) a banker, and proud if it?
  2. Would you put any spare money you had into (a) bank shares; (b) property; (c) a biscuit-tin under your bed (we bankers aren’t stupid, you know)?
  3. Who was your childhood hero: (a) Superman; (b) Robin Hood; (c) Shylock?
  4. “Money doesn’t grow on trees”. Doesn’t this mean that the whole crisis is the fault of (a) the farmers; (b) the Public Sector; (c) spongers on the dole?
  5. At the end of A Christmas Carol, did you (a) feel filled with the spirit of Christmas; (b) rejoice that Tiny Tim lived; (c) hurl the book aside in disgust at how Scrooge had turned into a spineless wuss?
  6. Which of the following would fill you with dread: (a) the Boogeyman; (c) the Financial Regulator (I know, ridiculous, but we have to ask); (c) an increase in the higher tax rate?
  7. What’s the best thing about Big Brother: (a) the arguments when they’re drunk; (b) the tasks; (c) evictions live on TV (great idea for a whole new programme there)?
  8. “I don’t know what a Tracker Mortgage is.” Was this said by (a) an actor in a TV ad; (b) a beggar on O’Connell Bridge; (c) the Governor of the Central Bank?
  9. Would you rather be (a) taken in a Tiger kidnapping; (b) taken by Tiger Woods; (c) taken for a Tiger Beer by a property developer?
  10. Who do you like most in Buffy: (a) Buffy; (b) Willow; (c) the evil blood-sucking vampires?
  11. Nick Leeson got six-and-a-half years for bringing down Barings Bank. Seanie Fitzpatrick brought down the entire Irish banking system. Should he get (a) ten years; (b) life; (c) a substantially reduced bonus this year?
  12. The Minister for Finance says bankers’ salaries should be capped at half a million euro. Is he (a) serious; (b) kidding;  (c) out of his fucking mind?

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If you answered all C’s, welcome aboard, Brother Banker! You and I are practically soulmates.

Or we would be, if either of us had a soul.

Before the Flood

Sorry I’ve been missing. I’ve been up to my eyes at work.

In these straitened times, that should be a good thing, but it isn’t. Another river of shit is flowing towards the wonderful people who work with me. We’re all going to get paid less when we come back after Christmas, and some, though thankfully only a few, won’t be coming back at all.

I’ve been so busy because I’ve had to pull together information that the people at the top will use to control the river, to decide in what directions to channel it and where to let it burst its banks. Shit happens, and they have to decide who to. They hate it, and I don’t envy them.

Meanwhile the staff carry on working, and discussing next week’s (much-diluted from last year) Christmas party.

I feel so sorry for the ones who’ll be going. The rest of us, well, we’ll manage. we’ll get by on our lower salaries and, if things ever pick up again, we’ll see good times again.

But the anger at the Government and the financial misfits who caused all this will still burn inside. It will not burn with flashy and short-lasting flames of rage and shouting. It will smoulder deep, deep inside, and because of this it will last much longer. And this deep-felt anger is burning  in other companies, in the public service, in all of society.

We keep being told that things are going to change. Unless the powers-that-be really are as divorced from the people as they appear, then they must see that things will have to. Because the people of Ireland have had enough.

Think of a Number

Here is a test.

Think of a number.

Double it.

Add 22.

Multiply it by four.

Add seventeen zeros to the end of it.

Take away the number you first thought of.

Ring the Government and tell them the the figure you have now is definitely, positively the final additional injection of capital that you’ll need to keep your bank afloat.

If you’ve passed the above test you are as fit to apply for any of the several vacant Chief Executive jobs at our banks as were the people who held them in the first place. This week, seven months after the banks first admitted they were in real trouble, it’s been reported that Allied Irish need a further €1.5 billion in bail-out money and Anglo Irish need €2.5 billion, because they still haven’t figured out just how badly they’re really doing.

And remember, these are the people who opposed the Government’s €500,000 cap on bank executive salaries. The Government introduced this cap in an attempt to assuage public anger, which might otherwise have led to people storming AGMs and carrying bankers off to use them as toilet brushes, but the banks, showing a staggering lack of cop-on, said that it would prevent them from hiring the very best, which presumably means people like they have now.

You couldn’t make it up. Except that increasingly it looks like that’s exactly what they do.

Yet Another Birthday

first-birthday

This blog is one year old today.

I can now celebrate the day I was born (my birthday), the anniversary of the day I got my pacemaker (Tinman’s birthday) and the anniversary of the day I started this (my blog birthday).

This means I have more birthdays than the Queen.

Therefore I’m entitled to have an Honours List.

mary-hanafinThe MBE (Miserable Bastard Entity): From a lengthy list of contenders (honourable mention here to Education Minister Batt O’Keeffe) I’ve chosen Social Welfare Minister Mary Hanafin, for the decision to scrap the bonus payment to Welfare Recipients at Christmas. She keeps saying that at least she didn’t reduce the rate, but scrapping the bonus week IS a 2% cut, and her refusal to accept that is typical of the type of word manipulation that Ministers are still using, failing to see that it’s this type of crap that’s so infuriating the electorate. Anyway, she’s altered the entitlement of pensioners to medical cards, and shortened the length of time for which you can collect Jobseekers Benefit, so she has reduced benefits, no matter what she says.

michael-fingletonThe OBE (Obnoxious Banker Entity): Yet another category in which the shortlist is actually a long list. Brian Goggin, outgoing Chief Executive of Bank of Ireland for example, for bemoaning the fact that his salary fell to below 2 million last year, and for the fact that, although he has retired as Chief Exec, he’s remaining on the staff of the bank till June, so he’ll qualify for his full pension. Seanie Fitz, of course, for single-handedly bringing our banking system to its knees through his reckless and quite frankly corrupt business practices at Anglo Irish Bank. The honour goes to Michael Fingleton though. The fact that he tried to pay himself a €1 million bonus despite having presided over a loss of €243 million shows that he has no understanding of what a bonus should actually mean, and was simply using Irish Nationwide as his own piggy-bank. The fact that Irish Nationwide facilitated Seanie Fitz in hiding his Anglo Irish Loans from the stock market is another shining example of the ethical standards of this man.

yelena-1st-birthdayThe CBE (Cute Babe Entity): Ah, Yelena. It’s been over three months since I’ve thought of an excuse to post a picture of her, but she is far from forgotten in my heart, and now that the athletics season is returning you can expect to see lots more photos of her midriff. Or sometimes her bum.

The Nighthood (Because they’re blood-sucking vampires): The politicians of this country, for clinging with their vampire teeth to their outrageous collection of benefits, add-ons and expenses, while all the while telling us that we must all accept the pain together. Chief among them though is Brian Lenihan, for continually trying to give the impression that they are actually taking cuts when in fact they are doing no such thing.

And finally, for running our country into the ground with his throw-money-at-everything-approach to government, for accepting handouts from anyone willing to give them to him, for allowing his poor secretary to attend a tribunal and try to back up the lies he was telling about never having lodged sterling into his account, for then attacking the tribunal when they exposed these lies, for finally trying to explain the money away by saying he won it on horses, and for his overall contribution to increasing the level of contempt and distrust with which politicians and therefore politics itself are held in this country, Bertie Ahern is being made a Dame, because, well, there is nothing like him.

Come and Get It

The Irish Times today reports that

“The Department of Finance is assessing a response from Irish Nationwide to its request that the building society’s chief executive, Michael Fingleton, repay a €1 million bonus paid to him weeks after the Government guarantee for Irish Banks was introduced.”

By means of making stuff up using the Freedom of Information Act, Tinman has obtained a copy of this response on your behalf:

fingletons-letter

I don’t think it’ll take too long to assess that.

What’s the Difference?

I don’t get it.

Minister for European Affairs Dick Roche says that the 10 Golden Circle members to whom Anglo Irish lent €451 million to buy its own shares, and who now apparently are having €300 million of that debt written off, cannot be named, even to Finance Minister Brian Lenihan, who is now the sole shareholder.

He says “It would completely undermine the confidence of customers generally in Anglo Irish Bank if the Minister as shareholder could obtain access to confidential customer information.”

He also denies that the government is protecting or trying to shield any of the ten.

It shows how unwilling government ministers are to appear in public these days that Roche was sent out to bat at all. A man so popular in his (and my) own Wicklow constituency that this poster

dick-head

appeared at the Bray roundabout at the last election, he wasn’t let out of his box at all during the Lisbon Treaty campaign, despite being the one Minister who actually knew anything about it, because he annoys people so much with his pomposity and vanity. Now the rest of them are hiding behind him.

Anyway, if this people were ordinary customers carrying out a normal transaction, Id agree with him totally. And even in the case of this dubious transaction, I would have agreed that they shouldn’t be named until someone has decided that what they did was illegal, if they had paid the money back.

Because we now own Anglo Irish, and if someone has had €300 million that’s due to us simply written off, then we have the right to know who.

This, remember, is the same Anglo Irish Bank who just last month won an order repossessing the home of former Smart Telecom chief executive Oisin Fanning. The loan was to purchase shares in Smart, which are now worthless, just as the Golden Circle loans were for Anglo Irish shares, which are now worthless. There doesn’t seem to have been any problem naming him. Nor was the any problem pursuing him for his loan, even though he was left holding worthless shares.

So why is it not possible to name these guys (you just know none of them are women), not for dodgy dealing, but for loan defaulting?

Or is Dick suggesting that, as the weeks go by, each Monday Lenihan gets a report from Anglo Irish saying “sorry, boss, we’d to write off another half billion this week,” and when he says “Sweet Jesus, who from?”, they’ll say “sorry, you know we can’t tell you”.

How would that restore confidence? How would that placate the people? How would we ever find out if any of the Directors, including Seanie, have their loans written off?

Come off it, Dick. we own this bank, the ten owe this money to us.

If they want to stay hidden, let them pay it back.

The Big Guns Speak

It’s official. The country’s not doing very well.

29 days into the Year of the Deadasadodo, 93 days after the State had an all-night crisis meeting with the major banks, 21 days after the closure of Dell, 8 days after the forced nationalisation of Anglo Irish, and 88 days after even your humble scribe wrote his first post with the tag “we’re bocht”, the Central Bank has issued a bleak forecast for the coming year.

For most of us, our reaction to this will have been “No shit, Sherlock”. We don’t need these guys to tell us that things are going to be bad, certainly not after it has been said by absolutely everyone else in the country.

davros

Davros ...

But apparently the Central Bank saying it carries more gravitas, even at this late stage, since the Irish Times carried the story as its main front page article, ahead of stories like Brian Cowen’s visit to Davros (if I heard that correctly – I think he’s trying to hire the Daleks to collect the loans due to us from Seanie Fitzpatrick). And RTE had it as the main item on its evening news, ahead even of its hilarious footage of the New Zealand prisoners’ attempted escape (which I’ll let Laughykate show you, since they’re her compatriots).

With a touching lack of cop-on the Central Bank sent two Big Guns along to the launch of its forecast where one would have done, and each of them seemed determined to outdo the other in waffle and in seeing if they could get the assembled media to say “well, duh”. Their Governor John Hurley told us that “the ability of the state to meet the public sector pay bill was beyond the scope of resources”, and “the Irish economy is in an exceptionally difficult position”. Has this man been living down a hole? Does he really think this is news?

.. and Brian. Who is the fairer of them all?

.. and Brian. Who is the fairer of them both?

Tom O’Connell, Assistant Director General, mooted the idea of a property tax, saying “Ireland is an outlier internationally in not applying annual charges to residential property holdings”. (I am 51 years old and have never seen the word “outlier” before – is it French, rhyming with oublier?).

He went on to state that people living in apartment complexes paid management fees of around €1,000, and said that an annual tax of €1,000 on the 1.7 million dwellings in the state would yield €1.7 billion per year. He then suggested that it’s also possible to charge for water services and many other services offered for free. He then said:  “We have an awful lot of public services here that are provided free, whether it’s third-level education, free travel for the over-65s, all these things arguably could be looked at. Should people over 65 pay one-quarter of the fare, half the fare?”

There is some merit in what Mr  O’Connell says – it is mathematically accurate, since 1.7 million times 1,000 is indeed 1.7 billion.

But that’s its only merit. He’s obviously never heard of the water and refuse charges already existing on residential property. It’s news to me that third level education is free. And even when Ireland was the poorest of the poor we had free travel for over-65s. If scrapping that’s the level of thinking that people in top government positions are sinking to, then we’re even worse run than I thought.

And as for his brainless property tax suggestion … is he saying that every dwelling, from Áras an Úachtaráin to the tiniest bedsit, should pay the same charge? Has he ever heard of waiver clauses for the poor in any fixed price levy? At present 38 per cent of the public don’t earn enough to pay Income Tax (thank you Dermot Ahern), so how many of these would be exempted? And how many of the unemployed (and remember the very forecast that this titwit was there to launch said we’d have 98,000 more of these by the end of this year) would be exempted? How much money would this tax really bring in? If he doesn’t know, then why doesn’t this senior executive of the body that’s responsible for our “monetary policy functions, financial stability, financial sector regulation and consumer protection” (doin’ a grand job there, boys) just stop talking crap?

As stated, Mr O’Connell is the Assistant Director General. How interesting, I thought, it might be to follow through the full range of job titles in this relatively small public organisation – if there’s an Assistant there is presumably also a Director General, and yet we’ve also met a Governor.

But their website (thank you once again, Google) tells me that there are in fact THREE Assistant Director Generals. Oh, and above them A Deputy Director General. Then the Director General. Then the Governor.

“The public sector pay bill is beyond the scope of resources”. Their words, not mine.

Misfitz

Would you buy a crap bank from this man?

Would you buy a crap bank from this man? We did.

Google Sean Fitzpatrick (no, not the All Blacks hooker, LK), the guy who had to resign from Anglo Irish Bank after it was revealed that he had hidden his loans of between €84 million and €122 million from the bank’s shareholders for the last seven years. What he did with the loans is not clear.

The third item is an article called “5 minutes with Sean Fitzpatrick”, from the Indo  in October 2006, and in answer to the question “What drives you nuts?” our hero says:

“The Hollywood set, people who aren’t real, bureaucracy, falseness.”

Gobshite.

Anyway, Seanie’s machinations so damaged the reputation of Anglo Irish that it became the Humpty Dumpty of the financial world, and no matter what promises the government made about backing it the price just kept dropping till eventually it had to be nationalised. So now the responsibility for trying to collect dodgy  loans from hard pressed property developers has fallen on all of us.

But there are a couple of upsides to this. The first is that we – you, me – own a bank. Go into one of their branches tomorrow and help yourself to biros and coffee. Tell the staff to buck up. Tell one of them to get a haircut. Promote someone at random.

Bring a tin of paint and a brush with you and paint the front door a different colour. Write a strongly worded letter to the Times saying how disgraceful it is that we own a bank with the word Anglo in the title, was it for this that we fought at Boolavogue, the bloody RDS is bad enough, not to mention the British Isles, etc, etc.

Write to the Board, tell them you’ve given yourself a car loan, and ask them to hide it on their Balance Sheet.

To anyone who might suggest that I’m being facetious, and that this would be no way to run a bank, may I simply direct you to the previous management, who made just as big a balls of it but got paid buckets of money as well.

The other good thing about all this is that Sean “I did nothing illegal” Fitz no longer owes €84 million to a bank that he was using as his personal plaything. He now owes it to us. So I suggest, firstly, that all the secrecy surrounding what he did with the loans should end immediately. We are Seanie’s bankers now, and if Brian Lenihan won’t tell us what happened to the money then he should go too. At a minimum he should report at least once a month how much of the loans have been repaid.

Alternatively, Saturday’s Lotto draw each week should include a section where one person is drawn out to be Seanie’s loan manager for the following week. If you’re the lucky winner you get to ring SF, ask how much of the loans will he paying back this week, and if the answer’s not satisfactory then you can suggest to him that he might like to sell something – a house, perhaps. Or a car. Or a kidney.

Seanie's pension plan

Seanie's pension plan

Of course we may never get any of it, because he may lose everything. When he originally said he’d done nothing illegal I said here that I don’t think he’s right. Selling shares on the open stock market while concealing the fact that 35 per cent of your capital value is loaned to one person – your Chairman – is fraud. Dealing in shares yourself when you know something about the loan position of your bank that is hidden deliberately may well be deemed to be insider trading – which may carry a jail sentence.

The beleagured government are trying to persuade all of us to accept the service cuts and tax increases necessary to correct the mess created by self-centred tossers like Seanie. They will find this hard to do while Seanie gets off scot-free and the spineless Financial Regulator who let him away with so much is not fired, but gets to retire early with alump sum of €390,000 and an annual pension of €130,000. They may well feel that finding some way to make these people accountable will help gain the support of the rest of us for the pain to come. Any decent legal mind – and the Dáil is full of them – could think up something to charge these people with.

And they may not have to. I read today that one investor, who is a member of the Bar, is initiating proceedings against Fitzer and three other senior bank officials. If he were to win they might well be deemed personally liable for his losses – and then of course the floodgates might often.

In the article I quoted earlier this model citizen was asked what he’d do “if he had a spare million” (if? Dear God. He said:

“I’d do something for the homeless; provide day-time facilities.”

I hope he did that. He may well need those facilities some day.