From top: Jonathan Sugarman; Tony Groves
Further to today’s appearance by banking whistleblower Jonathan Sugarman before the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform…
Tony Groves writes:
I’ve met Jonathan Sugarman, had pints with Jonathan Sugarman. I’ve laughed and even argued with Jonathan Sugarman.
Now today, much to chagrin of Official Ireland, everyone else has gotten to meet Jonathan Sugarman.
His story is one we all kind of knew, but never really paid too much heed. To focus on it would only lead to more issues. So we all engage in a collective sigh and utter “sure we are where we are”.
You see, Jonathan Sugarman exposes an open sore on the face of our country. It is widely known that the banks were engaged in systemic fraud that Bernie Madoff would be proud of.
The €7 Billion Anglo/Irish Life & Permanent fraud was not only known about by the “Regulator” and the Central Bank, it had the tacit approval of both.
The Liquidity Breaches were systemic. The Banks played roulette with balance sheets, knowing the Central Bank was asleep at the spinning wheel.
But rather than admit this, we swallowed the “We all partied” pill of austerity. We let our open sore fester for 8 years and decided to pin the entire thing on a “few bad apples” in a Banking Inquiry for Dummies.
A few bad apples! Really, are we meant to be placated, believe that everything is reformed (ignore that Ireland absorbed 42% of the total EU bank debt) and move on?
If we can get so irate over the (estimated) €3 billion wasted on the establishment of the lame duck utility Irish Water can we please get a little irate over a debt burden we inherited via fraudulent activity and (at best) incompetent regulation?
A few bad apples, really? When Jonathan Sugarman reported systemic breaches of Unicredits bank liquidity ratio in 2007 he was told “it’s complicated” in lieu of saying “we are aware of the breaches but we don’t care”.
When he resigned and the breaches of liquidity were shown to be endemic and systemic he was threatened with legal action, if he went public with his story.
Anyone who expressed an interest in helping Mr Sugarman was accused of not “wearing the green jersey”.
The country, in full financial meltdown, was told to focus on the solutions rather than on the cause. We were told “we all partied” and that only by accepting collective blame could we get out of the mess.
Mr Sugarman was denied the opportunity to explain why this happened and how it could be prevented. The hydra headed monster of financial and political bureaucracy was unleashed on a man who was proven right in the fullness of time. A few bad apples, indeed.
Do you remember (or have you heard the story of) the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, where American Black Athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos stood on the podium, black gloved fist raised, during the 200mtr medal presentation? It is a tale of solidarity and defiance. The fist was a symbol of Black Power and (in Tommie Smiths own words) “a human rights salute”.
More often than not, lost in the telling of the tale is the white sprinter between the two black athletes. Peter Norman, an Australian runner, had finished second that day. It was in fact, Peter Norman who had suggested they wear one glove each, while he himself wore Human Rights badges.
Peter Norman returned to Australia an ostracised and maligned silver medallist. His stand meant the end of his Olympic career. He went on to qualify for the next Olympics no fewer than 13 times. He was not picked once. His show of solidarity with the Human Rights campaign was used to expunge his achievements and deny him any recognition of his talents.
He didn’t live to receive the apology issued by the Australian parliament in 2012. He died in 2006, Smith and Carlos pallbearers at his funeral. He wasn’t around to be “recognised for his efforts in furthering racial equality”. He simply did the right thing and paid for it.
Peter Norman did the right thing. Jonathan Sugarman did the right thing as well. But he remains ostracised and maligned. As Churchill was reported to have said; “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it”.
We had the banking inquiry, we never invited Jonathan Sugarman along to speak. A “few bad apples” didn’t want you to hear what he had to say.
Today Jonathan Sugarman told Official Ireland that even after 10 years of exile he is unbroken.
He asked why the Laws weren’t used to jail people in breaches of banking licences in a country that has jailed people for television license breaches.
He was right in 2007, he was right today.
Jonathan, I’ll meet you for a pint later. Tonight’s on me. You earned it.
Tony Groves is a full-time financial consultant and part-time commentator. With over 18 years experience in the financial industry and a keen interest in politics, history and “being ornery”, he has published one book and writes regularly at Trickstersworld
Earlier: Watch Jonathan
Jonathan Sugarman (left) and Tony Groves outside The Gravediggers pub, Glasnevin, Dublin 9 after wetting their whistles.
Pic via Tony