'The Fitzpatrick Tapes' by Tom Lyons and Brian Carey give a welcomed but gobsmackingly error-strewn and at times exceedingly worrying picture of the events leading to the catastrophic collapse at vast cost to the Irish Taxpayers, of The Anglo Irish Bank. Center stage and in the full glare of the spotlights is the former chief executive and chairman, Sean Fitzpatrick, a most gregarious, larger than life individual whose character, charisma and drive dominated the direction, style, quantity and quality of Anglo's main purpose in life viz. lending money. In Anglo's case it was oodles, and oodles of it at ever increasing dollops year on year, and by 'imaginative' reserving and accounting interpretation gave the illusion of a highly successful company and in its wake came an escalation in shares value, and everybody exclaimed "Good old Sean Fitzpatrick, the man's a financial maestro!"
Alas, Sean was neither a well disciplined banker nor, as he liked to be thought of, a successful investor and entrepreneur in his own right. He just happened to encourage his bank to recklessly, and without the proper and normal checks, constraints, collateral and documentation, to advance ever increasing loans to Developers, many of whom he was 'chummy' with, for property schemes at a time when the market place was vastly and worryingly over-saturated with such activity. A example of the over-supply in the housing market, is that for the 3 years to the end of 2008, just under 220,000 were built in Ireland, contrasting with a demand based on population statistics of about 30,000 units per year.The penny did not drop with Anglo, nor indeed with many others including the Banking Regulators, Politicians, Auditors etc that this was guaranteed to drive property prices into a downward spiral, and thus bring about a glut of bad debts within a loan portfolio marred with a high percentage of property loans.
And whilst this 'tsunami' of property lending was being undertaken by Anglo, Mr Fitzpatrick sought to demonstrate his own skill as a shrewd business man, by embarking on a series of highly speculative property and investment deals in his own right, using not only Anglo's offices and staff from which to manage his personal affairs, but, by borrowing in excess of Euro 110, million, from his bank for the purpose. Regrettably, the worldwide market conditions for which he blames the fate of Anglo, was also blamed for his quite extensive investment losses. Surprisingly, lack of sound personal judgement, poor management and investment skills do not seem to figure, in his reckoning for this costly taxpayer and personal debacle. Anglo had to be nationalised with shareholder value wiped out, and Sean Fitzpatrick has filed for bankruptcy.
Yet, I cannot feel the usual 'it-serves-him-right' emotions, as one does with others who cause financial disservice to the masses, because what comes through in The Fitzpatrick Tapes, is a highly personable bloke, who treasured his family, large circle of friends, and genuinely thought that his way was the right way, however misplaced, naive, and commercially foolish that it may be. He was refreshingly different to other financial and political miscreants in the woeful tale of the decapitation of the Celtic Tiger.