On Today’s Irish Times news-wire Ireland’s best known Homer Simpson impersonator and ex politico John Bruton has returned to that old pre-crisis trope of ‘over-regulation’. Needless to say the Times doesn’t offer any contrasting opinion, such as the possibility of let’s say under regulation; rather the piece focuses on Bruton’s call on Ireland to become a ‘centre of excellence’ on tax dodging, or what our more creative accountant friends like to call ‘tax compliance’. Veteran Irish Life and Permanent Banker and Irish Times chairman David Went was not quoted on whether he thought that Irish banking should be rid of pesky regulations, but he was probably busy.
John of course didn’t event the trope of ‘over regulation’, here’s an interview with everyone’s favorite entrepreneur and all round genius Sean FitzPatrick of Anglo Irish Bank from back in the good ‘ol days of 2007:
Q We need regulation?
I don’t think corruption is endemic in Irish business. We may have had a few bad apples but … we aren’t attracting the brightest like we did in the seventies and eighties because the banks just don’t have the respect…because of the banks themselves…and we have to work hard. It will take some time to regain the respect and trust that is very important for any society to have and not just with banks because banks are very fundamental to the infrastructure of any society…
Q You have given out a lot about regulation and over-regulation, do you have a sense that the entrepreneurship that created the Celtic Tiger, with all our Tribunals and new standards that we are somehow choking business? Do you think Irish business is corrupt or endemically corrupt?
Its not. We don’t have the Enron’s or anything like that. We never had the scandals that have taken place elsewhere. Of course you need regulation. But you don’t need over regulation. What we need is appropriate regulation. The danger is, ever since we have had scandals, do you know what you get..as non-executives on boards? You get middle aged accountants…on boards because they will be good for the audit committee. That can’t be good for business. What we need are a board who represent the stakeholders and are real people with real experience and that relate to the customers that you are actually dealing with and maybe relate to the shareholders. But if we are all going to run for the umbrella of safety with regulation, then what we have achieved over the last ten or fifteen years will be easily brushed away. I’m not looking for a free-for-all. We don’t have a free-for-all here. What I’m looking for is some sense and balance in regulation … [Bad practices] are not endemic and if we are going to change the whole regulation for all of that, then I think that you are mad.
Interview from TV interview with Aine Lawlor ‘One to One’ RTE December 2007, read the entire transcript here