The interview with David Drumm took place over two hours in his lawyer’s offices in Midtown Manhattan in mid-November.
Ironically, the venue was only blocks away from the former headquarters of Lehmann Brothers, whose collapse in 2008 led to the ever-spiraling economic disaster we are still undergoing.
Until Lehmann’s collapse, David Drumm was convinced that Anglo Irish would survive the downturn that had become manifest in the Irish property market.
After Lehmann, the world shifted axis and the collapse inexorably began. It is a period Drumm recalls with great lucidity.
He says he felt he was part of team Ireland, trying to salvage Anglo and the Irish banking system. He says the lesson of the Lehman collapse was that it was a mistake to let it fail.
He believed all the major decision makers from the Taoiseach on down were fundamentally motivated by a belief it would be an equally fatal error to let any Irish bank fail.
Decisions were made in that frenetic period that will haunt the Irish for decades to come.
The decisions made will certainly haunt David Drumm.
He believes in terms of Anglo, every decision, including the deeply controversial Maple Ten funding to buy up Sean Quinn’s shares, was known about and approved at the very highest levels of the Irish government.
“Everyone was on the same team back then, then came the scattering match” is how he puts it.
Drumm admits to waking up depressed many days and to wondering when the relentless spotlight will shift away from him and his family and why so many of the actors who made those fateful decisions have faded to quiet obscurity while he is still a choice target.
He firmly believes he was no better or no worse than most of the participants during that hectic time, that he acted in good faith and he has been unfairly targeted when others were just as culpable.
Once he was Anglo’s swashbuckling CEO, driving profits ever higher at the bank then memorably described as the best in the world.
He still calls himself an Anglo man, who rose the currents to power at the bank that was the envy of its competitors.
Now that same bank is pursuing him Javert-like through complicated bankruptcy procedures in Boston, for what he claims he does not have as he has offered them everything, including his pension, to pay off the loans he took.
He ironically believes Irish taxpayers money is being squandered in the relentless pursuit of him, and that the new regime at Anglo have much to answer for in how they have spent their time in vendettas against him and others since taking over.
At one point he shows a stack of newspaper articles, at least a few feet high, concerning coverage of his case. That is about ten percent of the coverage, he says.
When will it end, he asks, an unknowable question. Meanwhile, life for David Drumm has taken on a surreal quality as he waits to know his fate.
We began by discussing why he has moved away from Boston his former home.
NOD: What has your life been like since you came to America.
DD: Well, I came here back in 2009 obviously I had a long history here. I came over here in 1998 to set up the bank in Boston and worked for the bank through to 2003 before going back to Ireland. So we put down some good roots here and made good friends back in that time. So coming back then in the middle of 09 was kind of natural. I had lost my job in Ireland and the prospects of getting a job were pretty dismal. So I came back here and tried to pick up the pieces and rebuild it. Shortly after that lawsuits from the bank came out, that that was the second part of 09 and that has dominated my life since.
NOD: Just in a personal sense, how has it affected you to have this incredible negativity coming at you from Ireland?
DD: It lives with you every day of the week and takes up an inordinate amount of time, at the same time you have to get up in the morning, go to work, earn a living, raise your family, do family things and carry this thing around.
NOD: How has the affect been on your family life in terms of the amount of pressure that you feel?
DD: Extremely difficult because it’s seven days a week, because the time that I have to work on the law suit and everything else is really the time after work, or time at the weekend.