The Irish Bank Guarantee 2008 – A Silent Coup
June 30, 2013

C. Flower's Avatar

The Guarantee meeting of September 30th-October 1st 2008 was held at the request of AIB and BoI – it was one of those meetings held all the time in Ireland, unminuted, between Ministers, County Managers etc. and supplicant businessmen. They get together, and the supplicant says “my project is being held up by the planners” “the new regulation is going to put me out of business” “I want the concession for hotdogs at the Gathering” “I want the licence to dig gold out of Mount Leinster” etc. etc. Ministers and Managers say “what can we do ?” and get the plan changed, get the licence granted and so on. It is not a question of money changing hands, but of future directorships, golf club membership (Phil Hogan take note), being asked to join the consortium, well, being one of the boys, generally.

We know that AIB and the BoI came along to Cowen and Lenihan that night and asked for a guarantee. “Would you just pop out and have a coffee while we discuss it” an unnamed politician or civil servant said to them, and ten (or however many) minutes later, they were asked back in, and told that they had one.  Then the Regulator, Neary phoned the other banks that were covered. Next, individually, Ministers were rung up from the meeting in the middle of the night and told that a Guarantee had had to be put in place and they must give it the O.K.. Over three hours later, at 6.45 a.m. the world and the Irish people were told that “Ireland had guaranteed all its banks.”

The character of this meeting was that best referenced by the term “stroke.”  It was not a meeting of the government, as defined by the Constitution (at least 9 TDs), and there was no attempt to recall the Daíl to sit in emergency session overnight, as there was to be for the IRBC windup.  There were no bank experts there to give advice.  It was attended (according to Brendan Drumm) by two politicians, 2 civil servants and four bankers.  After the meeting Lenihan issued a meaningless “Letter of Comfort” indicating that the Government would cover bank losses.  The letter was pure sleight of hand, smoke and mirrors, whatever you want to call it, with no legal standing, in breach of the Constitution.  The ad hoc group of people in that room had no authority to make any such decision.

When the Daíl was told that a  bank guarantee was in place Cowan lied to the Daíl and said that the Guarantee had been agreed by Cabinet: “the Government.”…/document1.pdf

At the cabinet meeting the previous day, there had been some kind of “in principle” agreement for a guarantee, but the unlimited form unilaterally opted for by Cowen and Lenihan, covering all bondholders as well as depositors, has left us with an unsupportable financial burden.We would have been in order to occupy the Dail and demand he rescind.On the night of the “guarantee”, there was nothing to prevent Cowan from calling the Dail to an emergency sitting, as was done earlier this year for the IBRC wind up legislation.    

The Dail could have and should have voted against it and it would not have stood – but they were lied to and presented with a fait accompli  – told that the Bank Guarantee was already in place, taking all real value out of the debate.

Other Ministers were “ordered to approve” the decision, rather than consulted on it, in the insulting “incorporeal meeting” –  a series of phone calls to the homes of Ministers, in the small hours, of which Willie O’Dea and Mary Hanafin have written.

The whole tendency of Fianna Fail to take action out of the Dail Chamber during its term in office was commented on at the time as was the rule by tiny cabal, with just three people, Lenihan, Cowen and Coughlan acting as a super-cabinet, and with many government announcements made outside the Daíl.  Just how dangerous this was emerged when the Bank Guarantee manoeuvre was pushed through.

It was effectively a coup by the banks.   No tanks, or ranting Generals – just a shifty midnight hijacking of the political system that transferred billions in private debt onto the public.

Then, weeks went by. Lenihan did not seem to realise that his “bank guarantee” meant that MONEY HAD TO BE PUT INTO BANKRUPT BANKS.   That was why Drumm wanted to hit him.

Lenihan’s unconstitutional action had sold the country to the banks.

From the Anglo Irish Tapes:

Drumm re Lenihan

“‘Do you understand? Can I teach you just one piece?’ Not in that language, obviously, but can I teach you one piece of banking here? ‘When you’ve guaranteed somebody’s entire liabilities, it is smart to write a very small cheque to stop them being called! Which bit of that don’t you get?’ I don’t think he gets it.”
C. Flower  30 June 2013
Discussion on this on this thread at

Fixing the Libor Rates – By Far the Greatest Financial Scandal Yet
October 2, 2012


Irish whistle-blowing former banker Jonathan Sugarman speaking recently in Athens.  Τhe function was organized by ATTAC-Hellas in collaboration with the Greek Committee for a Public Debt Audit.  Sugarman spoke on the Libor scandal, the lack of transparency in banking practices, the problematic character of state supervision of the banking system (relevant to his own case for the indictment he issued was ignored/suppressed by the Irish regulatory authority), and the extent to which the recent Draghi measures represent a solution.

We all have to pay interest on our loans, and we all hope to get interest on our deposits.   When we the banks have money lying around idly it means they’re losing money, as it could be gaining interest as a deposit with another bank that needs the money. Part of my job as a banker was to ‘count the money’ towards the end of a trading day and make sure that any un-needed surplus – say 500 million euros – would be to deposited by the dealers. They would typically place this money on overnight deposits with other banks. The benchmark for interest payment on this deposit would be the LIBOR (or Euribor).   The LIBOR was allegedly an un-biased ‘weather report’ of what conditions were in the market that day. Now we have learned that some of the biggest banks in the world have been heavily involved in distorting this ‘neutral’ reading of the market.

Every morning by 11.30 a.m.  in London a panel of international banks including UBS, Societété Generale, Deutsche Bank, Barclays, the Royal Bank of Scotland is asked “OK how much interest are you willing to pay on overnight deposits, one week deposits, one month deposits and so on. ”   This is the price of money today in London at lunchtime.  I cannot overestimate the significance of this interest rate – every interest payment that each one of us makes on the mortgage that you pay, ever car loan – is determined by this rate.

LIBOR  ( the London Inter Bank Offered Rate)  has been in the headlines far less that it should be.  The Libor fixing scandal is by far the biggest and most far reaching scandal to have occurred in the world of finance. Why is it not getting the attention it deserves in the name of public interest?!? simply because the companies involved in fixing this price are the most respectable and distinguished of the banking world – HSBC & Barclays of the UK, Deutsche Bank of Germany, UBS of Switzerland.

LIBOR rates form the basis for the determination of amounts to be received and paid on contracts amounting to hundreds of trillions of dollars. Just to put this figure into perspective – Ireland’s bailout was ‘only’ 85 billion Euro. So while Christine Lagarde of the IMF keeps reminding the Greeks that they should pay their taxes, she is remaining very silent about the fact the bankers whom she wines & dines with at Davos are being accused of breaking the law at a much larger scale.

Barclays has ‘agreed’ to pay a fine of 290 million pounds for its role in fixing the LIBOR. RBS, now 82% owned by the British public has also been negotiating how much is feels like paying the British public for being caught red handed. We now have a state-owned body negotiating with with a state authority about how much it feels like paying for breaking the law. Try negotiating your legally-declared tax bill with the Revenue office and see how far you get…

Some choice quotes from the press on the Libor rate-fixing scandal….

Libor Manipulation Well Known in London by 1991 – Naked capitalism

A comment in today’s Financial Times is by a former Morgan Stanley trader, Douglas Keenan, confirms a passing comment in the Economist, that Libor manipulation goes back for more than 15 years. In fact, this piece makes it clear that is the time frame exceeds 20 years. From the Financial Times:

In 1991, I had live trading screens that showed the Libor rates. In September of that year, on the third Wednesday, at 11 o’clock, I watched those screens to see where the futures contract [on three month Libor] should settle. Shortly afterwards, Liffe announced the contract settlement rate. Its rate was different from what had been shown on my screens, by a few hundredths of a per cent.

As a result, I lost money. The amount was insignificant for me, but I believed that I had been defrauded and I complained to Liffe [ London International Financial Futures Exchange, which is where the contract traded]. Liffe explained that the settlement rate was not determined by what rates were actually in the market. Instead, the British Banker’s Association polled banks, asking them what the rates were. The highest and lowest quoted rates were discarded and the rest were averaged, giving the settlement rate. Liffe explained that, in doing this, they were adhering to the terms of the contract.

I talked with some of my more experienced colleagues about this. They told me banks misreported the Libor rates in a way that would generally bring them profits. I had been unaware of that, as I was relatively new to financial trading. My naivety seemed to be humorous to my colleagues.

So consider what this tells us:

1. Libor manipulation was already recognized by market participants in 1991 as a common phenomenon. That implies it had been going on at least a few years before that

2. The manipulation appears to have more than occasionally been more than a single basis point (Keenan says here the effect was “several” basis points, which I take to be three or more)

Oh, an an additional tidbit: Bob Diamond was in Morgan Stanley London as of then, in charge of interest rate trading, which means his claim that he had found out about Libor manipulation at Barclays mere weeks before his Treasury Select testimony was bollocks.

External trader to a Barclay’s trader, asking for a lower Libor submission: “If it comes in unchanged I’m a dead man.”
Barclay’s trader promises to “have a chat”.
External trader to Barclay’s
trader later that day: “Dude. I owe you big time! Come over one day after work and I’m opening a bottle of Bollinger.”

As in the case of the Irish Financial Regulator’s window-dressing exercise in introducing more laws & regulations for the banks, this means absolutely nothing if the appetite to enforce the law is nil. As a banker of many years I can safely say that the problem has never been the lack of legislation, but rather the complete lack of proper law enforcement when it comes to the conduct of banks. Fred the Shred of RBS (owners of Ulster Banks) lost his knighthood, but is he in jail? Can the FSA say that RBS never broke any laws & regulations while Fred drove it into the ground and onto the lap of the British tax payer?

Five years ago I resigned from my position at the risk manager of UniCredit Bank Ireland – the Irish subsidiary of Italy’s biggest bank. I had officially notified the regulator’s office  that we were ‘cooking the books’ by BILLIONS of Euros. Brian Hillery, the chairman of UniCredit Ireland at the time, now sits on the board of directors of the Central Bank of Ireland.  The Irish bank guarantee and the subsequent bail out were a result of Ireland’s banks running completely dry of liquidity. The Financial Regulator’s own documents stipulate a possible prison sentence of up to 5 years for breaching liquidity requirements.  I resigned from UniCredit Bank Ireland specifically over this issue. How many Irish bank executives are in prison for running their banks into the ground?

Jonathan Sugarman  2 October 2012

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