Charley's right... you can put a pig in a suit, but it is still a pig...
"All the criminals in their coats and their ties/Are free to sip Martinis and watch the sun rise."
- Bob Dylan, 'Hurricane'.
"Yea, from the table of my memory/ I'll wipe away all trivial fond records..."
- Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 5.
By Charley Brady
Perhaps that's what our wretched, corrupt bankers should have done. Their sins and their thievery may not have been trivial, but perhaps they should have listened to the words of the Bard anyway. Perhaps they should have made sure that there was no evidence left; that it was all swept from the table of memory. After all, our ex-Taoiseach, the disgraced buffoon Brian Cowen seems to have kept no notes whatsoever on that fateful night of September 30th, 2008; that night on which the Government guaranteed the whole of the liabilities for the Irish banks. Well, guaranteed on the unwitting behalf of the saps of taxpayers.
It was a crisis and it all had to be done fast and we kept nothing on record, Your Honours; it was all just a touch of the verbals and a shake of the hand between gentlemen.
Gentlemen. They were some gentlemen, just the same. On the now-notorious Anglo Tapes that were released by the Irish Independent last week, these fine gentlemen spray the F-word around so much that it actually ceases to have any meaning whilst it operates as noun, verb, adjective and whatever you're having yourself; and all the while these fine, fine gentlemen aren't averse to throwing in the much harsher C-word as well. If you were ever one of those sad sacks--and there were plenty around--who thought that a well-cut pinstripe loaned to the wearer a little class, then you found out how wrong you were, once and for all.
You are all no doubt familiar with what was said at this stage, so I'll confine myself to one comment from the charming David Drumm:
"Yeah, and we'll be saying: 'Yeah because a stress, because HBOS were f****** sold and Lehman's were bust and f****** Bank of America took over Merrill's and other f****** non-normal things happened, you c***."
"All the criminals in their coats and their ties are free to sip martinis..." Something tells me that it's far from martinis that these boys were reared. If the Anglo Tapes, in which the likes of David Drumm (Anglo Chief Executive) and John Bowe ( Head of Capital Markets and Acting Director of Treasury) are heard mocking, ridiculing and sneering at both the Irish and the Germans, are anything to go by then our heads of banking were no more than bowzies and corner boys. You can put a pig in a suit but it will still be a pig
And I'll immediately withdraw that remark on the grounds that pigs are actually clean and useful animals. They would in no way wish their names to be tainted by association with Drumm and Bowe.
So yes, they should have made sure that there were no tapes left lying around with a police force that has become increasingly angry about the position that they have found themselves in, whereby they have not been allowed to make any headway in bringing these sods and the many others like them to justice, as much as I know that many want to. Considering that the Anglo Boys thought it was funny to contemptuously sing the Nazi-era national anthem I wonder if the irony has struck them yet that the Nazis also suffered from that sin of hubris that had them document and keep everything... something that they too came to regret.
So now the wailing and the gnashing of teeth has begun. Now up go the cries of anger that it could have come to this. How, cry the bar stool philosophers, how did they ever get so out-of-control?
And my answer is always the same: it came to this because we LET it come to this. It came to this because historically the Irish actually LIKE to be told what to do by people that they perceive to be their betters. For years it was the Church, until they blew that one. And then there were the politicians. You knew that they were 'pulling strokes' and you actually admired them for it--well, until it hit YOU in the pocket and then you changed your tune. You have always enjoyed doffing the cap to someone. The bankers? Well, look at the high-level job they have. They must be fierce intelligent altogether.
Now comes the regret that we have been embarrassed and shown up for what we are on the world stage. And isn't the timing just perfect: after years in a tea chest somewhere the Anglo Irish Bank Tapes are sent anonymously to Paul Williams of the Irish Independent--just as Dame Edna Kenny and Ireland finish their run with the Presidency of the EU. How upsetting for him. He spends time and throws away his dignity in order to suck up to Angela Merkel; then out of the blue, up reach the bony fingers of the past to upset her and make her wag her not-so-bony finger at us. Of course, some of you might call it unfortunate timing; me, I don't believe in coincidence.
I feel for people like my friend Paula, one of the many who work so enthusiastically in the Tourist Industry in order to keep visitors coming to this country. Yet whilst I do feel bad for her--and God knows she is beyond anger herself at this--I cannot in all honesty feel anything but absolute delight at the events of this week.
Do you think that makes me a lousy, vindictive person? Well, maybe it does. Winning popularity contests has never been all that high on my list of New Year resolutions. However, save your ire for the sniggering Ghouls in Pinstripes, the Demons in Neckties. They are the ones who are heard on tape showing us exactly what they think of us.
And if they were simply foul-mouthed, incompetent fools (which they surely are) then maybe--just maybe--we could laugh it off, say that we've been taken for a ride again and try to move on.
But it's not that simple: the ordinary Irish punter will be paying this off for decades. And these guffawing vermin have not only made us a laughing stock but have real blood on their hands.
People have died because of the behaviour of these unrepentant bastards, who are still out there living lives of luxury instead of slopping out in a jail cell. Real people--not sums in cyberspace that are so enormous that most of us can't get our heads around them--have seen their dreams crushed and their lives shattered. Real people have been driven to that most final and awful of solutions--suicide--because of the greed and venality of these bankers, mixed with the complicity and cowardice of our politicians. And now all that Enda Kenny and Fine Gael want to do is use it for point scoring against Fianna Fail.
Yes, you can be damned well sure that I am happy that we have been splashed over the newspapers on a global scale. Because you can be certain that if it was only upsetting the Irish peasants then even with THIS disgrace nothing would be done. We don't count, not in the slightest. This has upset the Germans though, so perhaps Kenny and Company might just have to be seen to do something now. And not the cursed 'parliamentary inquiry' that Kenny is hinting about. Jeez, 'Who Watches the Watchmen?' Is he having a laugh? Have this investigated by politicians that I wouldn't trust to locate their own enormous backsides in the dark? We need to bring in someone from outside for this one.
Personally I enjoy irony so I'd like to see Angela Merkel with the boots on and a scrotum-cruncher in hand whilst a naked David Drumm whimpers in the corner. Hell, let's be honest: I'm past expecting Justice; I just want Vengeance and Payback. And blood on the floor. Lots and lots of blood.
In fact I'm in solidarity with the German journalist who said that the bankers and selective politicians should be put in a sack and beaten until their screams can no longer be heard. That sounds good to me.
In the Beginning. Lest We Forget...
With all the emphasis on Drumm and his thug mates this week, I want to make sure that Sean FitzPatrick, that still-arrogant, still-preening, still-vulgar little slime ball who once was chairman of the bailed out Anglo Irish Bank, is not forgotten in all of this. Because he is still swanning back and forward to Marbella, Spain and is still living off the fat of his ill-gotten gains. I have been asking for five years now why no one is doing time for what they have done, starting with him.
At the beginning of January of 2009 I wrote a piece for the Irish Examiner USA entitled: DID YOU HEAR THE ONE ABOUT THE DISGRACED IRISH BANK CHIEF? I think that it's worth remembering the partial origins of this whole sorry affair so I'll repeat part of it here:
The old jokes have been refined:
Q: How do you save a bank senior executive from drowning?
A: Take your foot off his head.
Q: When you see a bank chairman coming towards you with half his head blown off, what do you do?
I mean--seriously--when it comes to a toss-up between the likes of the head of Anglo Irish Bank Sean FitzPatrick, any of the other heads of banks and their close cousins the corrupt politicians, would you buy a used car from any of them? Would you even bother to spit on them if they were burning to death?
I know I wouldn't. The ones that have been caught so far have lived with their loathsome snouts in the trough for years now and we're the dopes who are paying the penance for it. With glasses of champagne in hand and superior smirks on their loathsome, socialite faces they have consistently and as a matter of course looked down on the ordinary person. They have stolen from us and many of the smaller shareholders have been financially ruined because of what they have done. Along with them and our witless government they have ruined the economy. And don't give me any of that old get-out-of-jail-card-free claptrap about it being world-wide. I'm living HERE and they are two of the groups responsible for the down turn. Pensioners who were counting on their investment to ease their latter years now find themselves bewildered and confused at seeing the money that they had given in good faith being suddenly taken from them.
FitzPatrick is only one of many but for simplicity's sake let's stick with him for the moment. He grew from being an accountant to managing the small Anglo Irish in 1985 and then onto heading that same bank, which was by now worth 13 billion Euros.
Amazingly, 80 per cent of his loans went to his cronies, the major property developers who at that time ran this corrupt little nation.
How many of these upstanding Captains of Industry benefited from that eighty per cent?
Twenty of them.
Bloody twenty! Think about that for a minute. Roll those figures around your head.
His enormous property portfolio ultimately included five star hotels (but of course), medical software firms and an oil well in Nigeria. An oil well, for crying out loud! And that is to name only a very, very small amount of what he and another executive of the bank--Lar Bradshaw--had shares in or owned, some of them admittedly highly imaginative.
All of which allowed him, along with his cigar-smoking, top-of-the range car driving, Kristal-sipping buddies to swan around Dublin and the world.
Ah, lads! You and I don't know how to live at all, at all!
But wait! There was something rotten going on under the civilized façade of Anglo Irish Bank. You see, it turns out that old Seanie-Boy's bank and foreign properties and Las Vegas Irish bar and all the rest of them were built on a foundation of sand.
The shareholders didn't know, of course. Why would they? They were only the saps who were financing the luxury that these boyos enjoyed. But FitzPatrick had borrowed 84 million Euros from the lender and used it to buy shares in Anglo Irish. In fact altogether he got 129 million Euros. Give the man his due though: he did disclose a whole 7 million of that to his hapless shareholders. He then managed to scrape up 45 million to at least pay off some of what he owed. Is your head spinning with incredulity yet? Well, between the jigs and the reels he ended up owing the aforementioned 84 million which was, as in some modern-day Grimm's fairy tale, never seen again.
How did he get away with it, I hear you ask?
Simple. Every time an audit was about to be done he just up and transferred (as you do) his millions--well, technically his banks' millions, but don't confuse the issue--into another bank, Irish Nationwide. He was helped in this by the aptly named Michael "Fingers" Fingleton, another God to the bankers of Ireland. Genius, really.
Mind you, it says a lot for the auditors that this went on for YEARS without them saying "Hey, guys wait a minute. Look at this..."
This happy and heart-warming tale of simple Irish millionaires who only wanted their time in the sun and never mind that it involved risking the money of ordinary shareholders, had to come to end. And for a few at least, it has.
As the famous Celtic Tiger lay gasping its last breath and its cubs began to run for cover and FitzPatrick and his developer friends, who now owed the bank 70 billion watched in horror as their properties plummeted into oblivion, the game was up.
Which is why the astonishing decision was taken last week by our leaders Brian Cowan and Brian Lenihan, on behalf of the Fianna Failures, to nationalise the bank. Ah, well. I guess the taxpayer, who sees more of his jobs go now on a daily basis, gets to be "patriotic" once again on behalf of the super- rich.
This is the kind of shady skullduggery that the Celtic Tiger was whelped on. Screw the small guy and bail out the Players.
Hell, at the very moment that the government was trying to think of a way to bail out the banks--all the banks--Sean FitzPatrick was shamelessly buying up 290,000 more shares and making a cool 12 million out of it.
You know, I always refer to that great scene in Roman Polanski's sublime piece of cinema "Chinatown", where Jack Nicholson's private detective asks the venal creature played by John Huston when enough is enough. "How many houses can you live in?" he wonders. "How many lobster dinners can you eat?"
Ah, but FitzPatrick and the rest of them are going to jail, I hear you say. Sorry, friends. You're confusing America with the banana republic that I live in. Forget about the small shareholder who has lost all of his money and is now ruined.
Nobody will be going to jail. Nobody.
And you wonder why they hold us in total contempt.
Back to the Present
That was written over four-and-a-half years ago; and week after week I continued to ask when we were going to see somebody in jail. And week after week I had the Usual Suspects castigate me for going "over the top". (I doubt that will happen this time around.) On one memorable occasion a certain banker, during a heated argument in Dublin, told me that I was "ignorant, venomous and uneducated". Well, I will certainly put my hands up to the middle charge but as to uneducated? If these guys were educated then they didn't really put their education to much use, now did they?
And now we're supposed to believe that no one knew about the tapes. Pull the other leg; it's got Alan Shatter on the end of it. Our intrepid Minister for Justice is one of the majority who knew nothing. The same fella who knows what motoring penalty points are being dished out countrywide knew nothing about these tapes. In fact he's "nauseated". If it weren't so serious it would almost be funny.
I am way over time this week and there is so much more to say. However, I'm pretty sure that this one won't be going anywhere so we'll probably be taking it up next week. I haven't even had a chance to touch on my old nemesis Michael Lowry.
It shouldn't be long now until we get some interesting tapes from the OTHER banks involved. And I don't doubt that there are some highly embarrassing--oh please yes!yes!yes! I'm having an orgasm--tapes that will show our beloved elected representatives in a... unusual and compromised light.
Oh and by the way, the Director of Public Prosecutions has cautioned the Irish Independent newspaper and 'suggested' that it scale back on its coverage of the Tapes.
That sounds about right: give them enough time and they'll somehow manage to pin this mess on troublemaking Irish journalists. It wasn't the fault of the bankers or politicians at all. Shoot the messenger.
You can email me at email@example.com or check out my blog on www.charleybrady.com