'They wanted to get rid of us. It was a carve-up': Seán Quinn accuses the Financial Regulator of being out to get him

After the crash: Sean Quinn with his wife Patricia who built up the Quinn empire

After the crash: Sean Quinn with his wife Patricia who built up the Quinn empire

Matthew Elderfield was made Financial Regulator in October 2009.

The Quinn Group presented Mr Elderfield and the late Finance Minister Brian Lenihan with a seven-year plan to repay Anglo Irish Bank.

But on March 30, 2010, following an application by the regulator, the High Court appointed joint provisional administrators to Quinn Insurance Ltd, including Michael McAteer of Grant Thornton.

Anglo also appointed KPMG as share receiver, and corporate troubleshooter Murdoch McKillop was made an interim executive director of Quinn Group in 2010.

The authorities insist they acted because Quinn Insurance persistently breached solvency rules. Séan Quin disagrees... and alleges Mr Elderfield was part of an international plot to oust him.

‘[Matthew] Elderfield came in and we come to what happened on March 30, 2010. He wanted rid of us. We weren’t popular with his friends in the FSA in the UK.

‘In 2009 we increased the cash in Quinn Direct as we had in 2008. We increased the cash in it in 2010. The outstanding claims were €20m in March 2010 but Quinn Direct had more business in the UK than in Ireland.

‘In 2010 or December 2009, [administrator] Michael McAteer came in and he was receiving lots of complaints from his colleagues in the UK, Quinn Direct was too competitive.

‘They took security on a regulated entity. Nobody can take security on a regulated entity.

‘We were a big threat, we’d started taking a lot of business in the UK. We were very competitive. We were seen as too big a threat.

‘The Government was vulnerable by then. The Taoiseach of the day was wounded. We were below his [Elderfield’s] recommended solvency. They had taken €200m off the value of our assets.

‘We had €1.1bn in cash. It was a major problem, we imported people  from three continents – one from Australia, one from America, one from UK, all over the place.

‘One was a Scottish man [restructuring consultant Murdoch McKillop] that wouldn’t be a big GAA fan. He’d probably be a Rangers fan.

‘We were a highly profitable company, the regulator was wrong. Which was right? Which was right, was there a lack of solvency? McAteer was wrong.

‘The administrator came in. In 2009 there wasn’t any shortage of cash, though property assets had been reduced by €200m. Never came across.

Plush: An aerial view of Sean Quinn's platial house in Ballyconnell

Plush: An aerial view of Sean Quinn's platial house in Ballyconnell

‘A bank owned by the Government sent a receiver into Derrylin. Where they took security in a regulated entity, you can’t do that.

‘The attitude was get them out. The whole thing was a carve-up. They couldn’t accept the Quinn proposal.’

Does he believe that Matthew Elderfield was involved in a ‘carve-up?’

‘They said put your prices up. With the potential liability, if they were genuinely worried about it what they could have done was put some consultant into Quinn Direct.He didn’t do that, he [Elderfield] chose to go ex parte, and going ex parte is a bit below the belt.

‘In Naas six months ago he put a manager into Naas Credit Union. He had learned from his Quinn mistake. He didn’t appoint a receiver. In six weeks at Quinn Group he would have seen what sensible men could do.

‘We had €500m in property, which had been reduced from €700m and €1.1bn in cash.

‘We had put forward an acceptable plan. But they wanted rid of us. They got a whiff that they could do that on the Thursday or Friday of that week and they said that they were going to put us in administration, and they were not deferring it.

‘First of all, we said we were not going to walk away from that.

‘He was doing it ex parte on Tuesday morning at 10.00.

‘He would not work with Quinn. There was an agenda. We’d cash reserves, the highest reserves of any company in Europe, €1.1bn in cash and €500million in property.

Regulator: Financial Regulator Matthew Elderfield

Regulator: Financial Regulator Matthew Elderfield

‘We’d had the best quarters we’d ever had in Quinn Direct. We’d a phenomenal quarter, the best quarter we ever had despite settling claims.

‘My theory is they couldn’t get anybody into Quinn Direct. We were phenomenally profitable and if they came with an intention of getting rid of us then he had a chance to not long after.

‘We had a recovery plan…

‘They were saying Quinns had a name for being very tight..
‘We said whatever is in doubt we’ll pay it. If we’re seen as being the bad boys we’ll pay out. There’s not much I don’t know.

‘They didn’t agree with our argument that we could repay enough. There were blockages in the system, they didn’t want us back.

‘We were intent on paying back the money, it was never a problem for us.

‘We never missed a payment, I had never missed a payment
on anything, never missed a cheque. We were paying back money, they didn’t want Seán Quinn back in the insurance business. We had €30m in spare cash, yet they wanted to put us into receivership.

‘I’m a hard-nosed businessman, that if a company is paying its way, increasing profits for thirty-odd consecutive years, you don’t put it into receivership. We were way ahead of everybody else in the industry…we were in profit.

‘There were weaknesses in the system. When things went wallop they brought in strangers from three continents to run the banks, to run the regulation, to run the country.

‘We presented them with a plan. Our five kids and family would have worked seven years for nothing and take nothing from the company and pay those debts.

‘And there was absolutely zero risk to them if we were allowed to do that. We made that very clear.

‘That was put to Elderfield but I never heard what he said.

‘Some consultants were earning €1,000 an hour, which was rich pickings. Murdoch McKillop was one of them. They came in and were told the administrators would be out in six months and now we’re going on 27 months and they’re still there.

‘They must have thought all their Christmases came at once. They’ve earned €400m. They are scavengers.

‘The May/June 2010 period saw the destruction of the Quinn Group. I don’t want to say too much but they were ridiculing...talking the company down. There were 1,400 export jobs, 2,800 staff.

‘We had paid €1bn in taxes in ten years. At one point you could drive from Donegal to Wicklow and there were Quinn operations. In Donegal, Cavan, Navan, Blanchardstown, Balbriggan away to Wicklow. Now there were going to be job losses and much less competition.


Alan Dukes, chairman of Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, formerly known as Anglo Irish Bank: ‘The Bank will decline to comment on the specific matters you highlighted in your interview with Mr Sean Quinn.’

Central Bank response: ‘The Central Bank identified serious and persistent breaches of the solvency requirements of Quinn Insurance, which the management and shareholder did not remedy.’

Michael McAteer, who was appointed as an administrator to Quinn Insurance: ‘I do not want to get into a public slanging match.’

Murdoch McKillop, financial restructuring advisor to the Quinn Group: ‘I was appointed as an independent executive director.’ Brian Cowen: ‘He does not want to comment.’

‘Anglo backed the Quinn deal but Elderfield wouldn’t agree to it and they had Liberty lined up. They knew if they didn’t take us we were going to sue them.

‘The world and crow knows that a company cannot buy its own shares. How could they come in and take our company into Northern Ireland, which is supposedly a foreign country, in military style I don’t know.

‘I’d be interested to hear their story about that.

‘There was a thirty-odd billion euro group, one of the most profitable groups in the history of the state. One of the most successful companies. It was stupidity, to save face.

‘Elderfield wants my head. I am seen as a loose cannon.

‘Murdoch McKillop seems to have gained a successful conclusion. It’s a small issue but it shows outside influence, we are big GAA supporters and followers. It is recognised and apparent.

‘Yet they cancelled the sponsorship of the Fermanagh championship, which was €2,000 or €3,000, yet they were happy to run with the Late, Late Show [advertisements].

‘They would have known we had the support of the local community. They kicked out my suppliers.’