As the blazing “Celtic Tiger” dwindled one of its most glaring lampposts, Sean FitzPatrick, was shown to have been nothing but garish. In December 2008, the former chief executive and chairman admitted failing to disclose information about personal borrowings to the tune of 87 million Euros which he had moved in and out of the bank each financial year for a period of 8 years. There are also questions about whether deposits from Irish Life & Permanent were used to mask huge customer deposit withdrawals; and whether the bank had lent money to some investors to buy its own shares in order to bolster its share price, among many others. In January 2009, the bank was nationalised and recapitalised and Sean FitzPatrick was required to repay about 110 million Euros to the bank. He told the court he was unable to repay owing to the fact that the financial crisis and property crash had wiped out his net worth. The court then issued a protection order restraining his creditors from moving against him in order to give him time to put a scheme together. He offered his family home, half of his pension and his car but Anglo Irish (representing about 70 percent of Sean FitzPatrick’s total debt) opposed the scheme. Thus, he believes he is now left with no option but bankruptcy.
Although it is uncertain how he may settle the debt, one wonders whether the bankruptcy regime in Ireland would not be lambasted for being too debtor-friendly if Sean FitzPatrick were to use a bankruptcy order by Justice McGovern as a convenient shield to intercept any attempts by Anglo Irish to move against him. Surely, the bank must be thinking that it is not up to a debtor also facing a criminal inquiry and a possible jail sentence under the Companies Act and the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act, 2001 to deal with his assets as he wished. Also, the fact that he apparently continues to lead an obtrusively lavish lifestyle would not help defenders of the bankruptcy regime. Nonetheless, Fine Gael might insist that bankrupts like Sean FitzPatrick constitute a very small minority and that also might be true.
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