Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Anatomy of Blame in a Real Estate Collapse - Ireland

Irish Real Estate Tycoon Declares Bankruptcy in Belfast
Sean Quinn, an Irish property mogul who parlayed a gravel pit into a sprawling business empire, on Friday declared bankruptcy in a Belfast court, unable to pay the €2.8 billion he owed to a troubled lender that Ireland nationalized in 2009.

The state-backed bad bank is seeking repayment.
“I am certainly not without blame,” he said Friday. “I am not in the business of pointing fingers or making excuses.”

“However,” he added, “recent history has shown that I, like thousands of others in Ireland, incorrectly relied upon the persons who guided Anglo and who wrongfully sought to portray a blue-chip Irish banking stock.”

Quinn points out that their lending him exorbitant amounts of money was in their own interest. (A pattern that repeats itself across the pond, I might note.) During a bubble banks take an ever increasing short view. Of course those big bonuses (no matter how cooked the books) probably has something to do with that. Something no one is addressing, which means we'll get to repeat this nonsense all over again.
His fall came after he secretly invested in derivatives based on shares in Anglo Irish Bank, a strategy that went sour in 2008. These “contracts for difference,” or C.F.D.’s, enabled Mr. Quinn to bet on the bank’s shares without buying them outright, meaning he could win huge tax-free profits or take enormous losses.

Since then, Mr. Quinn and his family have taken legal action to contest the validity of his bank debts, arguing that the €2.8 billion, or $3.9 billion, was lent for the “illegal purpose” of propping up Anglo’s own share price.

I have no sympathy for Mr. Quinn, but I appreciate that he's big enough to get a voice in showing how the rot within the executive suites at these banks was a significant driver of widespread financial fraud.

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