* Anglo Irish became synonymous with "Celtic Tiger" boom
* Executives guilty of 10 charges, not guilty of 6
* May face 5 years and 3,000 euro fine for each charge
* Former chairman acquitted on all charges
(Adds comment on regulator, detail on scheme, Anglo Irish)
By Sarah O'Connor
DUBLIN, April 17 A Dublin court found two former
executives of the collapsed Anglo Irish Bank guilty on Thursday
of illegal lending and providing unlawful assistance to
investors during the "Celtic Tiger" boom of the past decade.
Willie McAteer and Pat Whelan were judged guilty on 10
counts of illegal loans to clients known as the "Maple Ten".
They were found not guilty on six other charges of illegal loans
to the family of businessman Sean Quinn, once Ireland's richest
man and now bankrupt.
Judge Martin Nolan said that he would consider the arguments
for sentencing Whelan and McAteer on April 28 but that he was
unlikely to give a decision until later. The maximum sentence on
each charge is five years, a 3,000 euro fine or both.
The trial had been seen as a landmark in Ireland, where
Anglo Irish became synonymous with the casino-style lending
practices that drove the "Celtic Tiger" boom and subsequent bust
that pushed the state to the brink of collapse in 2010.
Former Anglo Irish chairman Sean FitzPatrick was found not
guilty of the same charges on Wednesday in the first such case
since Ireland was rocked by a banking crisis six years ago.
The three men were accused of providing loans to the Maple
Ten and to the wife and five children of Quinn in 2008 to enable
them to buy shares in the bank, boosting its stock price.
The verdict against former finance director McAteer and
Whelan, who was head of lending for Ireland, came after five
days of deliberations. Unlike FitzPatrick, they were executive
directors at the bank when the transaction took place.
JUDGE PRAISES JURY
McAteer and Whelan did not react as the verdict was read
out, both looking straight ahead and then leaving the courtroom.
"Obviously you had to weigh up many considerations, I thank
you for your verdicts," Judge Nolan told the jury. "I think
you've been a credit to the jury system."
The three former executives had been accused of providing
loans of about 625 million euros to bank clients to enable them
to buy shares in Anglo, unwinding a derivatives position in the
bank held by Quinn.
The loans were used by the customers, including Quinn's
wife and five adult children, to buy shares in the bank. The
Quinns were unwinding a stake of as much as 29 percent in Anglo
Irish built up via contracts for difference (CFDs), which do not
have to be publicly declared.
The bank's management had feared a disorderly unwinding of
the CFD position would put the bank in jeopardy. Quinn's family
then bought a 15 percent stake and the Maple Ten clients took a
10 percent stake.
The judge said in his view, Ireland's financial regulator -
which has been overhauled in recent years after failing to keep
a lid on wild lending during the boom years - had been aware of
substantial parts of the scheme.
"I also take the view that the financial regulator took no
steps to discourage the scheme or in anyway stop it. And it
seems from financial regulator witnesses that they were somewhat
relieved when the scheme went through and that the CFD issue was
alleviated and regularised," Nolan said.
FROM BEST-PERFORMING BANK TO COFFEE SHOP
Oliver Wyman, the consultancy working with the European
Central Bank on this year's health check of lenders, had crowned
Anglo Irish the world's best-performing bank in 2006 but its
fall from grace was rapid and spectacular.
It concentrated its business on Irish property developers,
many of whom gave personal guarantees as security on huge loans.
Many clients went bust and in 2010 the bank recorded a loss of
17.7 billion euros, the biggest in Irish corporate history.
Its planned new offices by the River Liffey now stand as an
empty shell scarring Dublin's docklands development, waiting to
be finished for the central bank to move in. Its former
headquarters now house a branch of U.S. coffee chain Starbucks.
The 10-week trial failed to capture the public imagination
as it focused on a narrow set of loans, rather than the wider
issues of the lender's collapse, until FitzPatrick's acquittal
dominated newspaper front pages on Thursday.
Anglo Irish stock became worthless once the government took
over the bank in 2009, leaving the Quinn family with debts to
the bank of almost 3 billion euros and decimating their business
empire, which had stretched from insurance to cement.
(Writing by Sam Cage; Editing by Tom Heneghan)