Greeks Sought Irish Central Bank Counsel. No, Seriously!

In what will assuredly be the punchline to many jokes over the course of the next few weeks, The Irish Times is reporting tonight that the Central Bank of Greece sought the advice of the Central Bank of Ireland in July and early August "to share experiences gained". We can only assume it was the double-bluff of figuring out what really didn't work since from what we have seen in the last few years, Ireland's decision to backstop/guarantee the entire Irish banking system during the crisis was perhaps what drove them into the mess they find themselves in today. While nothing surprises us with European (and indeed global) central bankers and politicians, this is perhaps the most astounding evidence of blind-leading-the-blind we have seen, especially given the focus on the stress tests which were wildly inaccurate at best in Ireland's expectations of capital/costs required.

The Irish Times: Irish bank officials were called in to advise Greeks on crisis

SENIOR OFFICIALS from the Central Bank have played a walk-on part in the unfolding Greek tragedy, prompting their counterparts in Athens from the wings on how to plot a resolution for their banks.


Performing a role close to that of an all-knowing Irish Oracle at Delphi, two officials travelled to Athens in July and again earlier this month to advise the Greeks on how they stress-tested the Irish banks in an attempt to draw a final line under the banking crisis.


The troika gods of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund have looked favourably on the Irish stress tests as a winning formula for assessing risks in banking sectors in other struggling euro zone states.


The cost of bailing out the Irish banks has not increased since the March 2011 tests, the fifth attempt in more than two years to put a final bill on the banking disaster.


As a result of the purported success of the Irish tests, the Central Bank was asked to send a delegation to Athens earlier this summer to help the Greek authorities handle their own banking woes.


"We can confirm that following a request from the Bank of Greece a small team from the Central Bank of Ireland travelled twice to the Bank of Greece to share experiences gained," a Central Bank spokesman said.


The cost of the two trips, which the Central Bank declined to disclose, was shared by the Bank of Greece and the Central Bank.


The officials advised the Greeks on the process followed in the Irish tests and how the test results influenced the reconstruction of the Irish banking system around the two "pillars" of Bank of Ireland and Allied Irish Banks.


Two Greek banks were among eight lenders that failed EU-wide stress tests of 90 banks in July.


Bank of Ireland and AIB both passed the EU tests the previous year, but the results were undermined when the Government was forced to seek bailout loans from the EU and IMF four months later.


The subsequent Irish stress tests of the banks in March 2011 were not carried out exclusively by Central Bank officials, however. As part of their scrutiny, they called in consultants, including US asset manager BlackRock Solutions, to assess losses on the loan books of the Irish banks.


BlackRock has since been recruited by the Greek central bank to evaluate the country's banks, which would be among the losers in a default by Greece.


The Central Bank spent €30 million on external consultants to verify the tests on Bank of Ireland, AIB, EBS building society and Irish Life and Permanent. The results of the tests raised the cost of bailing out the banks by €24 billion to €70 billion. About €64 billion is being injected by the State.


The less sanguine side of us now sees why the Greeks are taking so long over a decision that would be evidently clearer and clearer every day from the perspective of what is best for the Greek man in the street.