Allfirst chairman quits board of Irish parent

Bramble is leaving post 6 weeks early, before ending job here April 30

April 20, 2002|By Bill Atkinson | Bill Atkinson,SUN STAFF

Frank P. Bramble, chairman of Allfirst Financial Inc., which lost $691.2 million in one of the biggest banking scandals in U.S. history, retired yesterday as a director of the bank's Irish parent company, six weeks earlier than expected.

Bramble was scheduled to step down June 1 from the board of Allied Irish Banks PLC, but that was moved up "purely for personal reasons," said Trevor McEvoy, a spokesman for the bank in Dublin, Ireland. "It just fitted better into his own personal schedule."

It also means, McEvoy added, that Bramble "won't have to get on a plane and come over" for the May 8 board meeting. "It is his decision."

Bramble, 53, is also expected to step down as Allfirst's chairman after its annual meeting in Baltimore on April 30.

Bramble declined to be interviewed yesterday. But Philip H. Hosmer, an Allfirst spokesman, said Allied Irish's announcement is "just formalizing the dates of his disengagement from the boards that he serves on, that is all the announcement does."

He said, "It would not have made sense for Mr. Bramble to be re-elected as board chair [of Allfirst] and step down a month later."

Bramble's departure comes 2 1/2 months after the company said that Allfirst employee John M. Rusnak hid millions of dollars in losses through foreign currency trading.

An internal investigation, led by Eugene A. Ludwig, a former top U.S. banking regulator, concluded last month that Allfirst's oversight and controls were lax and that Rusnak's trading activities did not receive careful scrutiny.

Six employees were fired and Allied Irish named one of its executives, Eugene C. Sheehy, as chairman of Allfirst to replace Bramble when he steps down.

On March 14, Allied Irish released the results of Ludwig's investigation and announced Bramble's retirement. The company said that before the fraud was discovered, Bramble had expressed his desire to retire early, and Michael Buckley, Allied Irish's chief executive, agreed to it. An announcement was not made until Ludwig's report was released to the public.

Ludwig's investigation concluded that Bramble had "no involvement in or knowledge of the improper conduct that took place" in Allfirst's treasury operation, the company said.

In addition to Bramble's retirement, Allied Irish named John G. Heimann yesterday as "special adviser" to its board on risk management.

Heimann, the former chairman of Merrill Lynch Global Financial Institutions and a former U.S. comptroller of the currency, will address risk-related issues identified in the company's internal investigation. He will also make sure that Allied Irish's risk structure, policies, procedures and governance conform to "the best" international practices.

Bramble joined Allfirst in April 1994 as chief executive after stabilizing and helped stabilize troubled MNC Financial Inc. of Baltimore. In addition to being Allfirst's chairman, he was chief executive of Allied Irish PLC's USA division.

Bramble will receive a lump-sum payment of $2.9 million in connection with his retirement, according to a recent filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The payment is a restructuring of Bramble's pension.

Bramble received a salary of $725,000 and no bonus last year, the SEC document said. In 2000, he made $725,000 in salary and $435,000 in bonus for total compensation of $1.16 million.

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