David Drumm: ‘There is a witch hunt ... I convince myself that this will pass’


Funny enough the bank actually confirmed that in their own report, that it was not illegal and Willy gave that advice to the financial regulator. And then their third and last question was, ‘what are you going to do about it?’ and Willy went to Sean and Sean said well I am actually refinancing with the Bank of Ireland, which he was, that’s actually very true. He was in the process of taking all the loans and getting them away to BOI and they said fine and dropped it.

Now I have to be honest, at that time, when that was going on, nobody put that in the context of where it became and then in December 2008 when it became such a damage to the bank in terms of credibility and so on. It was just like one more thing that we dealt with and we answered properly and gave it to the regulator and now lets get back to fighting the massive amount of other fires that were coming.

So it was actually at the time a small thing and of course it became devastating just from a credibility perspective.

NOD: Looking back what could have been done differently?

DD: Oh…(laughs), how broad do you want to be? The group think in 2004 could have been like ‘you know what maybe we are in a bubble’.

NOD: In terms of what happened with Anglo?

DD: You have to keep in the context of what was going on generally. All Irish banks went abroad borrowed easily, built the balance sheets to a half a trillion. The size of the Irish banking system was three times the size of the economy.

Nobody thought that was an issue, I didn’t think it was an issue. I didn’t even look at it that way, either did the central bank, clearly either did the government or they would have done something about it. It’s like an Icelandic situation, the banks got very big.

That was all OK because everybody believed that we were in a unique situation in Ireland. We had a great economy, we had tremendous fundamentals that would see us through and therefore life was good and we would continue to grow over time. We were going into a bit of slow down perhaps and a correction in Ireland but generally our prospects were very, very good. To change history you would have to change what was happening at the macro level in Ireland.

NOD: The Celtic Tiger.

DD: The Celtic Tiger. Any one institution that would have had the brilliance to step out and say ‘you know what we think this is actually a bit of a mad bubble and we are going to stop’ would have been ridiculed.

No Irish media saw it coming. People like the guy in UCD saw it coming and very, very skillfully so. Nobody else saw it coming. The Irish media cheered it on. The bank was doing so well, they couldn’t say enough good things about us. Oliver Wyman (Global consulting group)  in 2007 reviewed the bank and listed us in an international report as the best performing bank in the world, that was in 2006. Oliver Wyman! So everyone was caught up in that thing.

NOD: So do you ever wake up and think what happened?

DD: Ya, you go around and around and around it. You think, personally what if I hadn’t have taken the job? Why did I come back from America? There were four candidates in the pot and my life would have been very different if I didn’t get the job.

NOD: What’s your life going to be like?

DD: I hope that some day I can get back to living some kind of a normal life.

NOD: What’s your life right now, what’s your day, is it involved with legal stuff?

DD: It’s half and half. I have a day job and I am very, very grateful to have one.

NOD: You’re advising people on investments?

DD: Yeah, I work on mergers and acquisitions. It’s very interesting work and I get paid, which is important obviously, critical.

NOD: So who are the people you work with, were they clients in Anglo Irish years ago over here?

DD: Actually no, I actually work now for a very small consultancy company that I had no connections with before, who hired me to do a particular project where I worked on the due diligence on a particular asset sale and then I did a good job, you know I got employed. But it started with a project and they offered me a job. So you get involved in an acquisition that takes several months and then you hope there is going to be another one.

NOD: Psychologically the downfall it must be very tough to deal with? You were a rising star, 2006/07 the young executive on the rise.

DD: That piece never sat comfortable with me. I didn’t want the job for that very reason. It wasn’t that I didn’t think I could do the job. I did not want the public profile, it was never my form.

NOD: Do you regret the memos you issued regarding the Christmas party?

DD: Do I regret that? No, because at the time morale was very low in the bank. The bank of all things put it’s people first. Staff, we valued the people in the bank, very, very highly. The bank’s business model relied on their level of loyalty to the bank, protecting the bank at all times, their productivity, their can do attitude. There were just great people working in the bank. Great, great people. So 2008, there was a lot of negativity in the media, to the extent of the fact it could have impacted on our people.