Shane Ross

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Shane Ross
TD
Teachta Dála
Incumbent
Assumed office
February 2011
Constituency Dublin South
Senator
In office
October 1981 – February 2011
Constituency University of Dublin
Personal details
Born Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross
(1949-07-11) 11 July 1949 (age 65)
County Dublin, Ireland
Nationality Irish
Political party Independent
Other political
affiliations
Fine Gael (1993–97)
Spouse(s) Ruth Buchanan
Children 2
Alma mater University of Dublin
University of Geneva
Profession Stock broker, journalist
Religion Church of Ireland
Website www.shane-ross.ie

Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross (born 11 July 1949) is an independent Irish politician and former business editor of the Sunday Independent. He was the longest-serving member of Seanad Éireann (representing the University of Dublin constituency), until he was elected to Dáil Éireann for the Dublin South constituency at the 2011 general election.[1]

Early life and career[edit]

Born in Dublin in 1949, he is the son of former Senator and prominent member of the legal fraternity, John N. Ross,[2] and the noted gardener and writer Ruth Isabel Sherrington.[3] He was schooled at St Stephen's School, Dundrum, and Rugby School, before attending Trinity College, Dublin, from where he graduated with a degree in history and political science in 1971.[4] A stockbroker with NCB, Ross was Business Editor of the Sunday Independent, Ireland's biggest-selling weekend broadsheet until his election to the Dáil in 2011, when he resigned the post. He is married to Ruth Buchanan, a former presenter and journalist with RTÉ, Ireland's national broadcaster. His son-in-law is Nick Webb, who succeeded him as Business Editor of the Sunday Independent.

He was first elected to the Seanad in 1981 as an independent candidate for the University of Dublin constituency, and was re-elected on nine occasions since,[5] becoming the longest-serving member of the house.[6]

He stood unsuccessfully as an independent candidate at the 1984 European Parliament election for the Dublin constituency. At the 1991 local elections, he was elected as a Fine Gael candidate to Wicklow County Council for the Bray electoral area, and served until 1999.[5] He stood as a candidate for the party in the Wicklow constituency at the 1992 general election but did not gain a seat, remaining instead in the Seanad where he once again sat as an independent after the 1997 election.

He is one of Ireland's most visible business commentators, promoting free enterprise, small government and low taxes and is widely identified as one of the most visible champions of laissez-faire capitalism in Irish politics, praising Irish Finance Minister Charlie McCreevy [7] as a "brilliant minister in the boom years" and lauded McCreevy's controversial tax individualization as "visionary".[8] He profited from the boom in Irish land prices, selling his home at Carrickmines to a developer in 2004 for an estimated €4 million to €4.5 million an acre,[9] however he subsequently bought a house in Enniskerry for €6.2 million in 2005.[9] Despite labeling himself as one of Ireland's foremost business commentators his record as a stock picker is mixed, as he noted himself "my record when a stockbroker was so bad that Dermot Desmond rightly gave me my P45. ...if any readers are beginning to take me seriously, remember it was I who advised people to sell First Active Shares when they went public and subsequently quadrupled and it was I who told innocent investors not to touch Ryanair shares with a barge pole at the flotation. They rocketed.".[10] Ross has also held Bank of Ireland and INM shares which have both collapsed in price and is also a chairman and shareholder of SVM Global Hedge fund which has under-performed its peers.

Shareholder activism[edit]

Ross promotes himself as standing up for small shareholders and consumers.[11] In 2000, he and Eamon Dunphy championed the case of small shareholders of Eircom after shares in the former state-owned company dropped by more than a third in value in just over a year Ross took the Board of Directors to task over the level of salaries, bonuses and fees being paid and denounced a plan whereby senior management were to get share options at a value below the flotation price. He was also sharply critical of the decision to sell the mobile phone arm Eircell to Vodafone and later sought the dismissal of 5 board members at the March 2001 EGM,[12] citing poor share price performance and poor acquisitions. However his criticism of the performance of Independent News & Media Group (INM) plc's performance and management is notable by its absence, despite many laudatory[13][14] articles prior to its share price collapse[15] and subsequent debt write down.[16][17] Indeed as column writer and business editor of the Sunday Independent his editorial line consistently and conspicuously supported his employer Tony O'Reilly in his many battles with Denis O'Brien, starting with the battle between O'Brien's eIsland consortium and the Valentia consortium for Eircom[18][19][20] and latterly over control for Independent News and Media plc (INM).[21]

At a shareholders' meeting in May 2005, Ross notably took up the cause of highlighting the monopolistic practices of tolling agency NTR plc.[11] Ross persisted in drawing attention to the issue, criticising the National Roads Authority in August 2008 for its inadequate and confusing management of the M50 barrier-free tolling system,[22] and was reported in The Sunday Times of London as having declared that "The removal of the barrier should have been cause for celebration. Instead, we have higher tolls, an administrative mess and pending chaos".[23]

Stance on Corporate Governance and Cronyism[edit]

The packaging conglomerate Smurfit Group which was widely held by small Irish shareholders has also been a frequent target for Ross, specifically its high executive pay, poor shareholder returns and alleged nepotism[24] and cronyism.[25] Though excess pay, nepotism and cronyism in Irish business have been frequent targets for Ross, his response to a 2008 report by Davis Global Advisors on his employer INM stood in contrast to his usual stance. The report, which drew on reports into INM's corporate governance by five independent proxy advisors, raised concerns about the independence of various INM directors and some of the company's crucial board committees;[26] Ross a shareholder in INM wrote in defense of the O'Reillys' stewardship of the company and labeled Denis O'Brien as a "dissident shareholder" and accused him of launching a "a destabilisation strategy" [27] due to the critical report into INM's corporate governance. Ross even compared the family ties on the INM board with O'Brien's appointment of his father Denis O'Brien Sr. to his companies - even though O'Brien's companies have not been publicly listed. Ross also described the board's critics as "human stooges", lauded the share price performance under the O'Reillys, and looked forward to a "bright future",[27] since then the share price has collapsed to €0.05 .

Criticism of Bank of Ireland[edit]

Prior to the Irish financial crisis he was a persistent critic of the performance of Bank of Ireland, of which he was a shareholder. He contrasted the conservative performance of the "establishment" Bank of Ireland with other financial institutions, notably Irish Nationwide Building Society (INBS) and Anglo Irish Bank (Anglo) which he praised. In his Sunday Independent column he described Michael Fingleton's Irish Nationwide as publishing "a cracking set of figures... he even leaves superstar Sean Fitzpatrick's Anglo Irish standing"[28] " and in another column dismissed shareholder critics of Fingleton, notably Brendan Burgess[29] and contrasted the small shareholder rebellions of Eircom, Smurfit and First Active with that of the INBS, whose CEO, he claimed "despite all his abrasiveness, was delivering small riches to them" ,[30] Ross dismissed the corporate governance concerns of Fingleton's critics writing "for all his faults, has delivered the only thing that matters in business: profit".[30] In his article on Pernod Ricard executive Richard Burrows' appointment as the Governor of the Bank of Ireland Ross claimed it was mainly due to Burrows' social status as a "toff" and criticized the bank for not even interviewing the "far too dynamic" Sean FitzPatrick, then CEO of Anglo Irish Bank.[31] In 2007 Ross praised Sean Quinn's purchase of a stake in "anti-establishment Anglo Irish Bank" and referred to Quinn as "this genius... [who] has combined being a champion of the customer with making a mint",[32] describing Quinn Direct as "the most successful insurance business in Ireland".

Anglo Irish Bank revelations[edit]

In April 2008 Ross revealed[33] that a group of Anglo customers were planning to launch a leveraged fund to buy Anglo shares in order to "squeeze" the Anglo "short sellers" whom Ross blamed for the collapse in the Anglo share price. Ross had been briefed by a member of the group and quoted him saying “We are going to teach the brokers and hedge funds that damaged the bank a salutary lesson... They will come out of this with their fingers burned”,[33] the episode became known as the Maple 10 and cost Anglo and ultimately the taxpayer €451 million.[34] As leverage for the Anglo share purchase was provided by Anglo this coordinated action would have constituted market abuse.[35]

Ross was also a trenchant critic of the under-performance of the Irish Pension Funds, and contrasted their performance with the SVM Global's Saltire Fund, the hedge fund which he chaired,[36] however in 2013 the Saltire Fund revealed a large loss of 32.4% during a period in which global stock markets had gained 17.7%.[37]

Campaigning and political activism[edit]

In the aftermath of the voters' rejection of the Lisbon Treaty in its first referendum in June 2008 in spite of support for the treaty by the major political parties, Ross highlighted the "disconnect" between the ruling caste of the nation's politicians and the democratic will of the public.[38]

In January 2009 he took the Central Bank of Ireland and Ernst & Young to task for their failings leading up to the nationalisation of Anglo Irish Bank,[39] In his capacity as Senator, Ross pressed Allied Irish Bank executives on the bank's fraudulent offshore dealings involving subsidiaries and Caribbean front operations, charging that the only party to be disciplined in the affair was the whistleblower who brought it to light and forcing from the bank's CEO Eugene Sheehy the admission that the institution may have been in breach of the Companies Act.[40] He authored an account of the Irish financial crisis later that year – The Bankers: How the banks brought Ireland to its knees.[41] In October of that year Ross drew the ire of the public transport company CIÉ for publicising charges of widescale fraud and mismanagement within the semi-state organisation.[42] He has criticised government inaction in voicing concerns about the Sellafield nuclear plant,[43] and has called for stronger legal protection for whistleblowers in cases of fraud and corruption.[44] Notably however Ross believes that prison should be reserved for violent crime and should not be used as punishment for white collar crime.

For his investigation into waste at the state training agency FÁS pursuant to the 2008 FÁS expenditure controversy, Ross was recognised by his peers as the 2009 Journalist of the Year. Ross is frequently featured as a source by international news media,[45][46] and has been cited as "one of Ireland's foremost financial commentators" by the Associated Press.[46]

In February 2013 Ross spoke in the Dáil against water fluoridation, referring to a Hot Press article he cited Declan Waugh[47] whom he called "a well known scientist" and claimed fluoridation was the cause of Ireland's "high rates of cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes". He also claimed that the Republic of Ireland had double the incidence of Down's syndrome of Northern Ireland as result.[48]

2011 general election[edit]

On 15 January 2011, during the course of a television interview Ross announced that he would stand as candidate at the 2011 general election, running in the Dublin South constituency.[49] He had refused an offer to run for the resurgent Fine Gael party and become an "insignificant backbencher", and was determined instead to stand as an Independent candidate, declaring: "I think you're going to see in this election a huge number of similar independents who want to put an end to cronyism, who want to see a change in the political system, who want to put an end to Civil War politics in Ireland, who want to see an end to the kind of tribal politics we’ve got, who are going to stand in the election as well".[50][51] In the general election campaign Alan Shatter TD launched a blistering attack on Shane Ross [52] saying the senator "was a cheerleader for Sean FitzPatrick and Michael Fingleton, contending that all bankers should be more like them, whilst praising the banking enterprise of these two banking buccaneers in the period 2000 to 2007, Shane reserved his criticism of bankers for AIB and Bank of Ireland and celebrated the enormous profits earned by Anglo and Nationwide”.[53] In the election Ross got the second highest vote in the country when he polled 17,075 votes in Dublin South to head the poll.[54]

In April 2011 Ross claimed the Government was “wearing the clothes of the last government of Brian Cowen” in its economic policy. He asked why senior bondholders had to be treated in the same way as depositors. “They are completely different creatures,” he said. “Senior bondholders go out there and take a risk and make an investment.” Ross claimed that Enda Kenny’s greatest cheerleaders in his policy were in Fianna Fáil. “The support is coming from the last government,” he added. “And very few people can see the difference, if there is any, between this Government and the last government in its attitude to the banks.” Ross accused the Government of completely and utterly surrendering to the IMF and the EU. “They know that, we know that . . . everybody knows that,” he said. “Default, apparently, is the word which cannot be mentioned in this chamber.[55]

Publications[edit]

  • Ross, Shane (2009). The Bankers: How the banks brought Ireland to its knees. Dublin: Penguin Ireland. ISBN 978-1-84488-216-8. 
  • Ross, Shane; Nick Webb (2010). Wasters. Dublin: Penguin Ireland. ISBN 978-1-84488-251-9. 
  • Ross, Shane; Nick Webb (2012). The Untouchables. Dublin: Penguin Ireland. ISBN 978-1-84488-277-9. 

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Mr. Shane Ross". Oireachtas Members Database. Retrieved 20 March 2010. 
  2. ^ "Seanad Éireann Debate, Vol. 212 No. 10, Order of Business". Houses of the Oireachtas. 12 January 2012. Retrieved 3 February 2012. 
  3. ^ "Miriam meets". RTÉ Radio 1. 15 August 2010. Retrieved 3 February 2012. 
  4. ^ http://www.shaneross.ie/about-shane/
  5. ^ a b "Shane Ross". ElectionsIreland.org. Retrieved 20 March 2010. 
  6. ^ "Seanad prize for minister's man". Irish Independent (Dublin). 13 September 2007. Retrieved 3 February 2011. 
  7. ^ "Top of the agenda. Shane Ross". Irish Independent. 24 November 2012. 
  8. ^ "Don't blame me, I'm the minister". Irish Independent. 13 May 2007. 
  9. ^ a b The Irish Times http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/commercialproperty/2011/0223/1224290604122.html |url= missing title (help). 
  10. ^ http://www.shaneross.ie/were-not-on-obamas-radar/
  11. ^ a b "NTR AGM hears barrier-free tolls call". RTÉ. 27 May 2005. Retrieved 2 February 2011. 
  12. ^ "Eircom's net loss at Ebeon". Irish Independent. 24 November 2012. 
  13. ^ Irish Independent http://www.independent.ie/business/new-horizons-in-new-media-26252933.html |url= missing title (help). 
  14. ^ "Tough questions for our own board". Irish Independent. 13 May 2007. 
  15. ^ "Top brokers forecast rise at the Indo". Irish Independent. 24 November 2012. 
  16. ^ "INM success fuelled by global strategy". Irish Independent. 16 April 2008. 
  17. ^ "?1,000 invested in Independent 30 years ago now worth ?167,000". Irish Independent. 3 December 2012. 
  18. ^ "Hold out for Valentia offer". Irish Independent. 
  19. ^ "Eircom: O'Reilly in, O'Brien out". Irish Independent. 24 November 2012. 
  20. ^ "Valentia set to match eIsland's euro 1.36 bid for Eircom". Irish Independent. 13 May 2007. 
  21. ^ "Money can't buy me love". Irish Independent. 3 December 2012. 
  22. ^ "NRA accused of causing confusion to nation's drivers". Belfast Telegraph. 29 August 2008. Retrieved 2 February 2011. 
  23. ^ Tighe, Mark (30 August 2008). "The bell tolls for the M50's 'hated' barriers". The Sunday Times (London). Retrieved 2 February 2011. 
  24. ^ "Smurfit AGM is a chance to get answers". Irish Independent. 13 May 2007. 
  25. ^ "Top of the Agenda - Shane ross". Irish Independent. 24 November 2012. 
  26. ^ Wray, Richard (10 June 2008). "Independent News & Media: Denis O'Brien report renews attack on board". The Guardian (London). 
  27. ^ a b "O’Brien’s guns misfire". Irish Independent. 25 November 2012. 
  28. ^ "Fingers sidelines a sorry Soden". Irish Independent. 24 November 2012. 
  29. ^ http://www.askaboutmoney.com/showthread.php?t=156055
  30. ^ a b "Fingleton's little people savage rebels". Irish Independent. 24 November 2012. 
  31. ^ "Ahoy, a toff at helm of BoI". Irish Independent. 24 November 2012. 
  32. ^ http://www.shaneross.ie/sean-quinn-we-salute-you/
  33. ^ a b "Anglo Irish clients plan €500m revenge fund". Irish Independent. 26 November 2012. 
  34. ^ http://namawinelake.wordpress.com/2011/11/16/maple-10-the-anglo-golden-circle/
  35. ^ "Anglo fraud probe could result in first market abuse case". Irish Independent. 30 November 2012. 
  36. ^ http://www.financejobs.ie/display_article.php?i=7463&n=820
  37. ^ The Irish Times http://www.irishtimes.com/business/sectors/financial-services/fund-chaired-by-shane-ross-suffers-large-financial-loss-1.1250655 |url= missing title (help). 
  38. ^ "Lisbon result poses question for EU". RTÉ. 13 June 2008. Retrieved 2 February 2011. 
  39. ^ Ross, Shane. "Where Were The Auditors". shane-ross.ie. Retrieved 20 March 2010. 
  40. ^ "AIB chief pressed on Goodbody issue". RTÉ. 21 May 2009. Retrieved 2 February 2011. 
  41. ^ Ross, Shane (2009). The Bankers: How the banks brought Ireland to its knees. Dublin: Penguin Ireland. ISBN 978-1-84488-216-8. 
  42. ^ "Iarnród Éireann rejects Ross criticism". RTÉ. 29 October 2011. Retrieved 2 February 2011. 
  43. ^ "Court hears MOX economic justification flawed". RTÉ. 8 November 2001. Retrieved 3 February 2011. 
  44. ^ Walsh, Jimmy (3 June 2010). "Callely says he will co-operate with inquiry into expenses". The Irish Times (Dublin). Retrieved 3 February 2011. 
  45. ^ Brown, Rachael (1 October 2010). "Ireland reveals full horror of banking crisis". ABC News (Sydney). Retrieved 3 February 2011. 
  46. ^ a b Pogatchnik, Shawn (11 February 2009). "Irish banking scandal widens". The Star (Toronto). Associated Press. Retrieved 3 February 2011. 
  47. ^ http://www.linkedin.com/pub/declan-waugh/11/58b/aaa
  48. ^ http://oireachtasdebates.oireachtas.ie/debates%20authoring/DebatesWebPack.nsf/takes/dail2013022700032#N14
  49. ^ "Shane Ross to stand in General Election". RTÉ News. 17 January 2011. Retrieved 2 February 2011. 
  50. ^ 1 Minihan, Mary; Fitzgerald, Mary (17 January 2011). "Ross to run as independent in Dublin South". The Irish Times (Dublin). Retrieved 2 February 2011. 
  51. ^ Minihan, Mary; Pat Flynn (13 January 2011). "Fine Gael urges Ross to contest election". The Irish Times (Dublin). Retrieved 2 February 2011. 
  52. ^ Shane Ross, Alan Shatter, Dublin South and the banks
  53. ^ http://www.businesspost.ie/#!story/Home/News/Shatter+critical+of+Ross+election+claims/id/9631e289-f484-4ed9-9fc5-c30e24b15eac
  54. ^ Byrne, Andrea (2011-02-27). "The Rosser romps home". Irish Independent. Retrieved 2011-02-28. 
  55. ^ Different coalition, same banking policies, says Ross

External links[edit]

Oireachtas
Preceded by
Tom Kitt
(Fianna Fáil)
Independent Teachta Dála for Dublin South
2011–present
Incumbent