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David Drumm

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

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David Drumm

You do something to try and lift the morale. Looking back of course, when you ask me did I regret it, if I knew then what I know now, I might have done it a different way.  But I take your point that it doesn’t look good now. But I was adamant I wanted to lift the morale in the bank. So I don’t regret wanting to lift the moral in the bank, but when you look at it through the lens of today I can see why it was painted the way it has been painted.

NOD: Do you think it was incompetence, corruption? What was at the core of the whole downfall. The political zeitgeist now is that Cowen was not up to the job, the banks were out of control, the media was a willing partner in an awful lot of the hype.  When you look back at it, was it a collective madness?

DD: It was a collective madness and it was a classic bubble. But being Irish we convinced ourselves we had something unique. That Ireland had finally arrived, we used to talk about the standard of living, you know we were only playing catch up, rather than booming. So it was just that Ireland was finally finding it’s place in Europe. So many of the people I knew over here (U.S.) would go in the early 2000’s to Dublin and say ‘what the hell, you people need to get a grip with what you are paying for land, bananas.'

When Ireland was in the punt you know your access to funding, as a financial institution was really restricted.  Too much access, nobody saw the dangers from the political through to the people managing the banks, through the estate agents, the lawyers, who by the way, the lawyers who closed all these loans are the same people who are chasing me now. They were all in there, everybody including me believed it.

NOD: After the bankruptcy hearing ends, what are you going to do then?

DD: I will just try to rebuild.

NOD: Are you able to stay in the States?

DD: Yeah and I would like to. There are good opportunities here and good opportunities for my family.

NOD: Is that through the investment visa?

DD: No, I have a job here, so I have a full employment visa, contrary to what they report in the media,so the visa is not the issue. Time is the issue, but these things are mind numbingly difficult, just trying to balance the time constraints.

These days having a job is a huge thing. You need to hold on to it, I need to hold onto mine. Trying to fight the other fires, I have to do both, I am not moaning, I just have to do both. If the day comes, and I have to hope that it will, that I will not have that burden. I could devote myself more to my job, even though I give it everything I have got.

NOD: What do you say as one of the most reviled people in the media in Ireland, what do you say to people in Ireland that they need to know about you?

DD: That during 2008, it’s the year that matters at this stage. I worked as hard as I could. I did my best working with regulators and with the bank and the board, all of us did. There are people in the regulator and in the central bank that would feel that same way, that they tried their best within their own ability to fix things. I wish I could have done more,  I wish I knew more, I wish I was better than what I was. But I did try my best. All the time I was trying to protect the bank, I had 15years of that attitude, that didn’t change, it became even more intense in me when I became CEO, so I was doing my job and doing my best and I failed and  of course I regret it.

I was looking after the bank because it was my responsibility but my partners saw it in the bigger picture.

NOD: For people in Ireland,a lot of the negativity is about the big house you lived inhere, the optics of it all.

DD: The so-called mansion, we purchased that house at the end of 2007. I was earning a lot of money in the bank. You think that the world is not going to end, the way it did. It was kind of the one extravagant thing that we did. We did absolutely love it. We loved Cape Cod and Chatham and saw ourselves coming back there. In the rear view mirror, spending that kind of money on a house, I just wouldn’t do it again. But you have got to look at it though the lens of the time.

The reason we went back to that house, is because it was our house. That was a positive of having to move the kids again because there was a home there they were actually familiar with.

NOD: Two kids right?

DD: Yeah, two girls. That was one thing that made it a bit easier to move them, that they knew where they were going.

NOD: Do you find it tough on the family?

DD: I think that I can survive it if they can.

NOD  When did you start to panic considering what was happening?

DD: The real panic, the real sense in Ireland within the system that we were in a real, real problem, was post Lehman. If you just look at the time line. Bear Stearns went bust here in the U.S. in mid March 08. That was like the first shock of an earthquake and Anglo had a mini run on it in March 08. It scared us, but it didn’t put us in a mindset that we were in real trouble. The share price was only a proxy for our funding.

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