WhistleblowerIRL, AKA Jonathan Sugarman continues to fight UniCredit. One rather impecunious man fighting a trillion euro bank. But Jonathan is nothing if not …well I leave you to fill in the blank.
The update comes via a very good 12th Nov. editorial in Village Magazine in Ireland, “Blowing the whistle so hard it hurts”.
In December 2010 a risk-manager in the Irish unit of UniCredit, Italy’s largest bank, described in Village how in 2007 the Financial Regulator failed to intervene after he first alleged he falsified liquidity-ratio figures. The risk-manager maintained he was specifically warned by senior personnel at the Irish subsidiary not to report the matter to the Financial Regulator
Jonathan Sugarman blew the whistle on the massive repeated breaches. This magazine received aggressive threats from McCann FitzGerald solicitors on behalf of UniCredit not to publish the information.
To the credit of its publisher and owner, Michael Smith, the magazine has stood by the story and refused to be cowed. I recommend reading the whole story. You can follow any further developments at Jonathan’s blog.
One thing to keep in mind when you read the story. The Irish financial regulator, Matthew Elderfield, was recruited, fresh from his earlier success at being one of the three Heads of Department at the British regulator, the FSA who were overseeing…Northern Rock. Mr Elderfield, along with his two fellow Heads of Department, was specifically criticised in the official report into Northern Rock. His supporters, namely the people in Ireland who hired him, will say he was only in that job three months when Northern Rock imploded. What, and that makes his silence all right?! So if an aircraft inspector had only been at his job for three months it would be fine for him to say nothing about an unsafe aircraft? That would be OK would it?
That would be a double standard if one could call it any sort of standard at all.
So I have my doubts about Mr Elderfield. Which are made worse when you consider some of the people above him and the world view they seem to have. You see there is an old guard In Ireland – as there is in most countries, mine definitely included – that has not moved on and has zero intention of ever moving on. Here for example you can watch Mr Bertie Ahern back in 2007 saying how he can’t understand why people who talk down the wonders of Ireland’s no-touch economy don’t just kill themselves. Mr Ahern was never Elderfield’s boss. I mention Ahern simply as an example of a world-view which is still there, defended by people still in positions of power.
One such old guard is Mr Elderfield’s boss, Dr Brian Hillery. Dr Hillery was appointed to be a Director of the Central Bank of Ireland which incorporates the Financial Regulators Office of Ireland, in May 2008. Before his appointment to be guardian of financial probity in Dublin, he was the Chairman of …UniCredit Bank Ireland at the precise time Mr Sugarman was there trying to report those financial ‘problems’ to the financial regulator (who at the time was Mr Elderfields disgeraced predecessor, Mr Patrick Neary). So definitely no conflict of interests there. Obviously.
I feel absolutely sure that Dr Hillery would be very comfortable with, and would fully support, a rigorous investigation of UniCredits’ behaviour and its attention to the law, and that the pressure brought to bear upon Village magazine when it chose to write about Unicredit and its breaches of liquidity are purely coincidental. I feel equally sure Mr Elderfield would feel fully supported in any investigation he undertook , which combined with his own proven track record of razor sharp and iron fisted regulatory zeal must make the Irish people feel warm all over. In good hands – as the priest/radio one DJ said to the boy.
Oh and it might be worth keeping in mind that Dr Hillery was also Chairman of Independent Newspapers in Ireland. Whose papers have not covered this story with any great … regularity shall we say.