Anglo Irish trial: Sean FitzPatrick not guilty of illegal share scheme

Pat Whelan, Sean FitzPatrick, and Willie McAteer. Pat Whelan, Sean FitzPatrick, and Willie McAteer were accused of making loans to illegally support the bank's share price

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The former chairman of Anglo Irish bank has been found not guilty of illegally supporting the bank's share price.

Sean FitzPatrick, 65, held the top job in 2008 when the bank made loans to 10 wealthy customers who used the money to buy the bank's shares.

A jury found that Mr FitzPatrick's behaviour had not been illegal. Anglo collapsed in 2009, costing Irish taxpayers more than 30bn euros (£25bn).

The jury is still considering the cases against Pat Whelan and Willie McAteer.

It will return at 10:30 BST on Thursday to resume its deliberations.

Mr Whelan, 51, of Malahide, County Dublin, and Mr McAteer, 63, of Rathgar, Dublin are accused of making loans designed to illegally prop up the bank's share price.

The case concerned a transaction involving the country's then richest man, Sean Quinn.

He had taken a complicated financial bet which meant he, in effect, controlled 25% of the bank's shares.

But Mr Quinn's bet had gone horrendously wrong.

There was the prospect that he would have to dump his huge shareholding on the market that would cause the bank's share price to collapse.

The bank's response was to get 10 of its wealthiest customers to buy the Quinn shares.

Sean FitzPatrick

Sean FitzPatrick was the public face of Anglo. His star rose with the bank.

He became general manager in 1980 and was later appointed chief executive of the parent company and transformed it into Anglo.

In 2005 he became the chairman, though he maintained a hands-on role. It was still very much 'Seanie's bank'.

He became an admired and influential figure, at one stage acting as an unofficial advisor to Prime Minister Brian Cowen.

But in 2008, he was forced to resign when it emerged he had concealed the true size of his personal borrowings from the bank.

Since then, it has been a downward path of police interviews, courtrooms and bankruptcy.

Wednesday's verdict, clearing him of involvement in a share support scheme, is a rare recent moment of triumph for a fallen corporate Titan.

The bank lent the investors the money to buy the shares - and did so on favourable terms.

Loans were also provided to members of the Quinn family to take up some of the shares.

The deal had the desired effect and helped stabilise the bank.

The prosecution argued that was a breach of company law, which prevents a firm lending to a customer with the intention of affecting its own share price.

The judge directed the jury that to convict they must be satisfied that the loans had not been made in the ordinary course of the bank's business, that each of the defendants knew about the scheme and did not take steps to stop it.

Mr FitzPatrick's barrister had argued that his client's knowledge and understanding of the scheme was limited.

In a statement outside the courts complex, Mr FitzPatrick thanked his family, friends, legal team and the jury.

"First of all I would like to thank my wife, my two sons and my daughter, and my sisters who have supported me, not only during this trial, but for the past six years of great personal difficulties," he said.

"I would like also especially to thank the women and men of the jury who have found me not guilty of all charges."

He added: "To all my friends who have stood by me, in particular two very special friends, I will always be truly grateful for their support during this very difficult time."

Mr FitzPatrick said it would be inappropriate to take questions and walked to a waiting taxi.

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