The Central Bank: supposed to contribute to banking stability

The latest disclosures about Irish banking are likely to prompt new questions about what exactly the Central Bank told Irish banks to do in 2008 to deal with the financial crisis and major liquidity problems it was causing.

There is no doubt the Central Bank was put in a difficult, almost unprecedented, position in 2008. According to the Central Bank Act 1942, the governor of the institution is supposed to contribute to the stability of the financial system. But how to do this without crossing the line in terms of market regulations is difficult.

Information on last year's events, prepared for Anglo chairman Donal O'Connor, suggests the Central Bank knew Anglo was preparing to receive support as it came near its year end in September.

But the analysis, seen by this newspaper, acknowledges there is no written or taped evidence that any particular form of support was mentioned by governor of the Central Bank last March when discussions started about the whole issue.

While banks often enhance their positions coming near to year end, the precise type and level of enhancement is the key concern.

If litigation results from the recent disclosures, Anglo Irish is likely to produce evidence showing that members of the Financial Regulator's team were aware of the precise nature of the transactions taking place last year.

There does not seem to be any written correspondence concerning the Central Bank.

However the Central Bank may still face questions on what it believed were the correct kinds of support banks should be giving to each other.

"In March 2008, the Financial Regulator and the Central Bank were concerned that Irish banks were doing little to co-operate and assist each other and in so doing avoid stress to the wider Irish financial system and were encouraging of greater co-operation and mutual assistance," says the internal audit department report.

Anglo is likely to claim that it entered into its transactions against this background, and it will probably claim that IL&P was of a similar view.

"IL&P similarly have confirmed to Anglo Irish that they also had discussions with senior/middle management at the Financial Regulator and Central Bank in respect of being facilitated and facilitating transactions to ensure market confidence," states the report.

The document points out just how gloomy things were in Irish banking last September.

It quotes ex-IL&P chief executive Denis Casey and his fears, as he looked out his office window, that his bank would not open "for business tomorrow".