Sympathy for the Irish devil - ex-Anglo Irish Bank chairman Seanie Fitzpatrick
American writer comes face to face with notorious banker
Fitzpatrick is painfully aware, Lynch says, of how complete his fall has been from CEO of Anglo Irish.
“When I met him in Dublin we were skulking around on a street corner. We had a quick cup of coffee at a gas station and we got back indoors before someone might see or say something to him.
“He felt like he had gone from being seen as the guy who helped Ireland grow to the guy who had called its downfall.”
Anglo Irish grew its loan book in the years after Fitzpatrick stepped down as CEO and became chairman.
“That’s where David Drumm’s responsibility lies (Drumm was Fitzpatrick’s successor). But I think Fitzpatrick was a little too forgiving of himself. At the end of the day as Chairman of the Board you are getting paid to do something. You can’t say it was all Drumm’s fault, I was down on the golf course shaking hands.”
In Fitzpatrick’s last years at Anglo he grew the loan book by 15 billion euros. In the first four years of Drumm’s tenure he grew the books by 50 billion euros.
When the global credit market seized up because of the Lehman Brothers collapse all of a sudden they couldn’t get capital, couldn’t roll over their debts … and we know how that story ends.
Lynch’s book is that rare thing, an economic study that’s also a captivating snapshot of the society it’s exploring.
Written in lucid prose that will appeal to both the general reader and the economist, Lynch (a former Nieman fellow at Harvard University) understands that there’s a lot more to a nation’s story than the performance of its markets.
It’s depressing to realize that your own government and banking industry have been acting exactly like tipsy frat boys, but in effect, says journalist David J. Lynch, that’s precisely what has happened. Everyone knew the boom would end, but nobody wanted to be the guy at the party who says goodnight first.
A fifth generation Irish American (on both sides), Lynch’s ancestors hail from Co. Kerry and he embarrassedly admits he’s taken the classic Irish American ancestral roots trail himself.
But Lynch is no many misty eyed tourist. In the process he has appraised Ireland’s particular strengths and weaknesses with a gimlet eye of an outsider who can see through all the palaver.
The basic outline of Ireland’s economic collapse is well-documented -- crony capitalism, operating in a 19th century political climate, allowed close connections between Irish politicians, property developers and the banks to lead to immense prosperity. Simultaneously, however, they created the conditions for a shattering collapse.
But Lynch suggests it would be foolish to count Ireland out, and he has subtitled his book The World’s Most Resilient Country and Its Struggle to Rise Again.
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