Nama’s chief executive Brendan McDonagh and a letter from Michael George, managing director of Fortress Capital, to Andrew McDowell, Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s former economic adviser, at 3.04pm on February 13, 2014
Further to the appearance of Nama officials – including chairman Frank Daly, chief executive Brendan McDonagh and audit committee chair and member of Nama’s Northern Ireland Advisory Committee Brian McInery – before the Public Accounts Committee yesterday…
US investment fund Fortress was the only underbidder in Nama’s eventual sale of Northern Ireland loan portfolio, otherwise known as Project Eagle, to Cerberus.
You mayrecall the following sequence of events, as outlined in the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report on the sale:
Nama approved a proposal to sell Project Eagle at a minimum price of £1.3bn over two meetings on December 12, 2013 and January 8, 2014.
On January 8, 2014, Lazard and Company Ltd were appointed as the loan sale advisor for Project Eagle.
On February 13, 2014, it was reported in the press that Pimco had approached Nama, back in 2013, to buy the whole Northern Ireland portfolio and, a day later, selected bidders were allowed to access information on the loans in a data room.
On March 12, 2014, Pimco withdrew from the loan sale process – after informing Nama of a £15million success fee arrangement involving a member of Nama’s Northern Ireland Advisory Committee, Frank Cushnahan, London law firm Brown Rudnick and Belfast-based Tughans solicitors.
On April 3, 2014, Nama approved the sale of Project Eagle to Cerberus who also used the services of Brown Rudnick and Tughans solicitors.
You may also recall reports that Fortresss had to make a representation to the Department of the Taoiseach on February 13, 2014, before it was invited into the bidding process some five weeks after it had begun and Nama’s denial of the same.
During yesterday’s PAC meeting, Fine Gael TD Noel Rock had the following exchange with Brendan McDonagh.
Noel Rock: “When were Pimco initially informed there was going to be a sales competition?”
Brendan McDonagh: “Pimco were told, I think, post the board meeting in January 2014. We’ve always maintained to Pimco, that there was never going to be an exclusive off-market sale directly to them.”
Rock: “Okay. All right. Do we have the minutes for that board meeting?”
Rock: “And it says that in it? Okay. Fortress, it was said earlier on, I don’t know if it was yourself of Frank said it, that there was no email to Enda Kenny from Fortress seeking…”
McDonagh: “None. No. There was reporting effectively that Fortress had, it was reported in the media that Fortress had to email the Department of the Taoiseach, the official Department of the Taoiseach to get access to the thing.That’s actually completely untrue. I know the managing director, senior managing director of Fortress. I met him a number of times I think in 2009 and we stayed in touch over various things. He emailed me on the 13th of February 2014. My email is available to the, there’s nothing in it. Basically saying, ‘Brendan, how’s it going?’ Talked about the rugby match at the weekend and said, ‘I just heard through one of my colleagues that the Northern Ireland portfolio may be on the market, it’s something I’d be interested in’. I forwarded the email to my colleague and said, ‘please let this guy, get Lazards to contact him because, you know, I met this guy, and I had no issue with him. I would know Fortress in my previous life. And it was, Fortress were brought, they were contacted by Lazards, I think that evening on the 13th of February. They were sent an NDA, an non-disclosure agreement and they were sent the NDA on the 14th of February and then they didn’t return their signed NDA, because you can’t get access to the data room until you supply the NDA, they didn’t return their signed NDA until the 26th of February, I don’t know why it took them 12 days to sign it. Maybe they had to go through their own internal compliance or whatever it was but they were invited into the process, on the evening of the 13th of February, but certainly on the 14th of February when they were sent the NDA.”
Rock: “I’m familiar with your emails. I’ve seen a copy of those. On the same day though, they did email the Department of the Taoiseach. Why do you think they would have done?”
McDonagh: “There was no, I don’t know what email the Department of the Taoiseach, I haven’t actually personally seen that email…”
Rock: “I’ll forward it to the secretary so you can be provided with a copy.”
McDonagh: “But I saw the media report but I was a bit surprised by that because I had got an email from the senior managing director of Fortress on the 13th of February myself and I arranged for Lazards to get in contact.”
Rock: “Okay, all right. Thank you. In, I think it was yourself Brendan, in a previous appearance before the PAC, I’m just going to quote this here if you don’t mind: ‘We appointed Lazard, then Lazard approached the nine biggest funds in the world, the guys who would have fire power and capital to be able to buy a portfolio like this. Then you listed the nine firms, including Fortress that you said had been approached. But it obviously seems, based on the discussion of the email with the Department of Taoiseach and indeed to yourself, that it wasn’t the case that they were approached; they, in fact, had to approach you. Do you accept this quote is now inaccurate, in effect?”
McDonagh: “No, I don’t think so. I don’t think that’s inaccurate, deputy, because Fortress were one of the people which were considered to be approached by Lazard anyway so, as I said, there’s a league table in terms of, you know, people, division one, division two, division three, so as people drop out, we were pushing Lazard to get more people into the process.”
Rock: “Right. So. So, like, I’m finding this hard to understand. Did Lazard approach Fortress? Or not? If so, why did they [Fortress] need to approach you?”
McDonagh: “Well, all I can say to you, deputy, is as follows: On the 13th of February, I got an email from the senior managing director of Fortress, I got one of my colleagues to contact Lazard to say, ‘contact these guys in Fortress, find out if they’re interested or interested or not’. I don’t know personally when Lazard were going to contact Fortress or not, but I do know what happened on the 13th and 14th of February.”
Nama audit committee chair Brian McEnery, a partner on the Corporate Finance & Recovery Team at BDO Ireland; and RTÉ’s Marian Finucane
On RTÉ Radio One’s Marian Finucane show.
The chair of Nama’s audit committee Brian McEnery gave a one-to-one phone interview with Ms Finucane while her panel was in the studio, in light of the recent C&AG report into Nama’s Project Eagle sale.
Ms Finucane explained, before the 25-minute interview began, that the accountant, who was in London, did not wish to be a part of the panel discussion.
Ms Finucane didn’t mention that Mr McEnery was a member of Nama’s Northern Ireland Advisory Committee, of which Frank Cushnahan and Ronnie Hanna were members.
She also didn’t mention that Mr McEnery was director of elections for Fine Gael’s Michael Noonan, now Minister for Finance, before the general election in 2011.
Mr McEnery was first appointed to Nama on December 22, 2009, for a four-year term, by the late former Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan, while he was re-appointed for a five-year term on December 22, 2013.
The Northern Ireland Advisory Committee was established on January 7, 2010 and dissolved in September 2014, after the sale of Project Eagle.
In 2013, the then Minister for Health James Reilly appointed Mr McEnery as chairman of the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA).
Readers may wish to note the following excerpt from the book, The Untouchables: The people who helped wreck Ireland – and are still running the show, written by the now Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross and Nick Webb in 2012:
McEnery was a partner at Horwath Bastow Charleton, which, according to its website, ‘can support businesses in preparing business plans and in dealing with Nama and their other bankers’. In April 2012, he joined BDO Ireland as a partner.
The firm examined developer business plans on behalf of Nama and is on the state agency’s panel of receivers.
in June 2011, McEnery’s new employer was appointed as a receiver to developer David Daly’s Irish and UK assets. Daly owed €457million and was one of Nama’s biggest clients.
BDO was also a close adviser to one of Nama’s top ten clients, Dundrum Shopping Centre developer Joe O’Reilly.
Turlough Flynn, who works at O’Reilly’s Crossridge Investments, was listed as a guest of BDO at the Chamber of Commerce dinner in the Four Seasons in February 2012. Nama chairman Frank Daly was the keynote speaker that night.
Nama’s board is in receipt of commercially sensitive information, the kind of stuff that clients of a firm like BDO would kill for. Having the inside track on an organisation as secretive as Nama would be hugely valuable for dealmakers trying to buy assets from Nama or even for negotiations with clients.
McEnery will need all of his wits to avoid all the potential conflicts of interest that his new career move has brought.
But back to the interview…
Marian Finucane: “Brian McEnery, good morning to you, and you’re welcome to the programme.”
Brian McEnery: “Good morning, Marian, thank you very much.”
Finucane: “From your perspective, can you address this secrecy issue?”
McEnery: “I will, Marian. Well, I’ll try my best. We’re, I suppose, in a way, Marian, we’re like a bank. And, when you’re dealing with a bank, but it’s even worse cause we’re dealing with a bank which is effectively trying to deal with debtors where their assets are distressed. And that means that a lot of value they once upon a time had, or felt they had, is now gone, and so, it is, the relationship, quite frankly, I suppose, is that it is around distressed debt. And, for us, take the one or two times, Marian, and you say, I do need to say, it isn’t as if everything has been perfect in Nama, there have been one or two leaks…”
Finucane: “Oh my goodness.”
McEnery: “…of information.”
McEnery: “And when that happened, you know, we came in for a mighty, mighty amount of criticism that items of information got out into the public arena and so, in some ways, and I believe we justifiably got criticism for that. Former employees of Nama who intentionally did things wrong and, but, in those instances, you know, the secrecy is terribly important around debtors’ commercial dealings, the level of debt that they have outstanding, how it’s going to be best achieved, income on behalf of the State and if we did operate in a much more transparent way, I think, we would not get the same kind of yield that we have got back on behalf of the taxpayer. So, to go back to your discussion a minute ago…”
McEnery: “Where, it was said, if it was known about the strategy, as to the realisation of the Northern Ireland portfolio, wouldn’t that damage Nama’s commercial interests and that is true, Marian. If there is a lot of information out there, which is commercially sensitive, it absolutely will damage the commercial interests of Nama which is the commercial interests of the taxpayer.”
Finucane: “Well, what people are puzzled by, is that if Mr Cushnahan informed Nama that he was acting for six or seven of the clients, he would have been part, maybe not, we don’t know, it’s an allegation, of the actual figures, but he would have been aware of the strategy?”
McEnery: “I tell you. So. To go back into talking about Mr Cushnahan for a second and it’s, I think, you’ll, you’ll recognise it’s important that I don’t say that he has done anything wrong…”
McEnery: “Those investigations are ongoing and we’ll see where they go to. But. Firstly, I can tell you, if, if they do come out to be true, there will be nothing form my perspective other than utter disgust. However, that said, originally, Marian, the Northern Ireland government wanted a director on the board of Nama. If that had happened, I believe we would be in a terrible place now – if we had the same cast of characters. [Late former Finance Minister] Brian Lenihan resisted very heavily and, clearly [Finance Minister] Mr Noonan has done the same. That was a recurring request, from the Northern Ireland government, that it wouldn’t just be on a little committee of Nama, that it would be at the main board, thankfully that didn’t happen. In relation then, and on the basis, of some element of diplomacy, this Northern Ireland Advisory Committee was established. We continuously resisted the request for board membership from Northern Ireland, for good reason. It’s the Irish taxpayers that are, the Republic of Ireland taxpayer who’s funding this, not the Northern Ireland one. So, that was resisted, and that is really the critical point. In terms of Mr Cushnahan and the Northern Ireland Advisory Committee – he was nominated by the DUP. And the other nominee was Brian Rowntree. They were the two nominees on it. We absolutely made it clear, from day one, there would never be a debtor discussion, of any description, there would never be a screed of information about a debtor given to the Northern Ireland Advisory Committee. They never saw…”
Finucane: “But, presumably, they would have known of the decision to get rid of the loans, all in the one go, so to speak. And they…”
McEnery: “In actual fact, Marian, when that arose, the Northern Ireland Advisory Committee was not consulted…”
Finucane: “But would they have been aware of it?”
McEnery: “I don’t believe so. When. Because. It was kept from the Northern Ireland Advisory Committee, in actual fact, we didn’t meet. The Northern Ireland Advisory Committee would only meet periodically.”
McEnery: “And when Nama, as a board, was making its decision making around, around this, it did not consult with the Northern Ireland Advisory Committee.”
Finucane: “So, what did you talk to the Northern Ireland Advisory Committee about, when you met?”
McEnery: “I tell you what we did talk about, we talked about commissioning research from the University of Ulster, around the property indexes in Northern Ireland and whether property was going to generally going be going up or going down or, that’s what we talked about, we kept it intentionally at a very, theoretical high level. And I can tell you this: in terms of the so-called data that Mr Cushnahan had, he didn’t get it from Nama. Because if he did, the data would have been right and it was very wrong. It was up to 80% out on some of the balances in relation to the Miskelly letter. So, he didn’t get it and I think, quite frankly, I believe, and my sense is, that Mr Cushnahan was peddling influence that he didn’t have..”
McEnery: “Peddling that he had data which he didn’t have.”
Finucane: “Well that remains to be seen now and there will be investigations done on that. It is alleged that, in some of the sales, if we leave the [Project] Eagle one aside for the moment, that, in some of the sales, and I presume aggrieved debtors, that the property changed hands, big property, big money, was sold off at such a low price, that it was flipped by the buyer, within one or two years – is that true?”
McEnery: “Marian, I tell you what we, what we do. We have a very, very robust process. And, you see, take, take a house, Marian, as an example…”
McEnery: “I want to give you a very fair but accurate answer.”
McEnery: “Say you buy a house and I’ve sold it to you for 100,000 but let’s say, nobody knows, Marian, that you might have put in another 20,000 euros into it and redecorated it because I hadn’t put any money into it in 10 years beforehand and you go and sell it for 125,000 and you’d say, jeez, they made a 25% increase on the value of the property, wasn’t he an awful fool for selling it for 100,000 euros..”
Finucane: “But if you go back to the principle of the bad bank, my understanding of the bad bank was that you took the toxic loans off the balance sheets of the banks.”
Finucane: “…to allow them to function and the idea was then to hold on to some fantastic properties until the market would start to rise again which it has always done. But it seems that..but, just to come back to this.. because from more than one story, I was told by three different sources, about certain properties and the loans were sold off, say at around 200million and were flipped for 400million.”
McEnery: “Yeah, you see, you just don’t know what happened the assets in the intervening time period, Marian.”
Finucane: “In a very short period of time. In other words, there was a feeling that there was a fire sale going on and that there was a rush to get rid of all this…”
McEnery: “I tell you what we did..”
Finucane: “Instead of holding on to it, which, I understood, was the principle behind a bad bank.”
McEnery: “No, absolutely So, we took the assets over in 2010, Marian and the objective was, was to have all of Nama completed by 2020. Government sent Nama the objective of expediting that to 2018 – for the benefit of the sovereign, for the benefit of Ireland to get back out and show that it was dealing with its issues and 2020 became 2018. So that’s fine. And that became our objective but to do exactly what you have also said, Marian which was to be, to give you an example, Project Jewel, Dundrum Shopping Centre held until we were at the very height of the market and sold for about a billion euros profit into Nama. Other assets that we have dealt with, sold, now what we did do in the early days of the strategy, was not to, was in actual fact to try and sell the London assets because there was good yields in London property and, aswell as that, if we put a lot of the Irish property into the marketplace in 2010 and 2011, we’d have made the Irish property market an awful lot worse so we did warehouse Irish property and it was only, as you know, in the relatively recent times that we sold off, and we are still selling some of the prime assets and I can tell you we are making profits and, overall…”
Finucane: “But, if you take the overall sums you’re dealing with.”
Finucane: “Like 2 billion, we’ve got so used to billions in this country, that we talk about them like snuff at a wake but, anyway, in the order of things, proportionally, 2 billion doesn’t seem like a huge profit, given the level of billions we’re dealing with?”
McEnery: “Well. Ok. What are we going to do, so? The goals have been set that we develop 20,000 housing units and we further do out and put in all the infrastructure and to put office accommodation into the Dublin Docklands. That’s the, the three objectives now of Nama, at this point in time are: continue to sell off the loans and deleverage and to repay the bonds. The original objective and it was the prayer, I think, of all Irish taxpayers back in 2009/2010 was that Nama would not lose money and there was an awful lot of commentary that this was going to be a disaster; it was going to be an unmitigated burden on the taxpayer forever more. It won’t be, Marian. We are guiding that we will make a 2.5billion euro profit…”
Finucane: “On what turnover?”
McEnery: “On. So. We, we issue bonds to the tune of about 32billion and we will repay both the senior and the subordinated bonds and we will make a profit for the exchequer of about an extra 2.5billion. It may vary upwards by the end of the day but that’s what we’re guiding at the moment. In addition, we will have developed 20,000 housing units by 2020. We’ve over 4,000 developed in the last year and a half and we will put infrastructure in the Dublin Docklands which will allow big new companies to come into Dublin city centre. That’s, they’re the three objectives but it won’t be a loss, it will be a profit..”
Finucane: “Yeah but..when you say a profit, that sounds very positive and we’re all very glad, thank you very much for any profit we can get but you couldn’t call it a mega profit.”
McEnery: “No, no it isn’t a mega profit..”
McEnery: “But you know what…when we bought the loans..”
Finucane: “It comes back to the point that if you take the story about the 200million flip to 400million, you know, it looked like this was a fire sale and I know that on that one, the person involved had never missed a payment to a bank and it seemed that they were all treated the same way – whether they were performing or whether they weren’t performing and, indeed, that was the point that Mr Kelly was making in his article today, too.”
McEnery: “Well, Marian, and I listen to your, I listen to your programme every Saturday and Sunday.
Finucane: “I’m delighted to hear it.”
McEnery: “I’ve heard debtors who give out about Nama on your programme, and I’ve heard debtors who come in and say Nama is tough to deal with but we’ve got on, we’ve had a relationship with them and we’ll continue to develop with finance that Nama has put out. I can tell you, but truthfully, we would, we would, there would be a much, much, much bigger issue for the Irish taxpayer if people were coming on, saying Nama is nice, they’re great people to deal with…”
Finucane: “The other thing is, some of these guys, and I’ll come back to the Eagle project then, some of these guys that we’re talking about, would have described in the past as like masters of the universe and, as I understand it, from another contributor on the programme, who used to work with Nama, and she was saying that they, the debtors, had to sign a confidentiality. Now I fully understand how Nama has to be, have to have confidentiality about everybody’s business. But each individual should surely have the right to talk about their own business and they were terrified to.”
McEnery: “That was around the original business planning and, I mean, ultimately, when you say that it’s important that Nama keeps its strategy close and plays its cards close to its chest because that’s important in delivering value to the taxpayer, that’s what we try and do, we do try and ensure that if, that if there’s a strategy agreed with debtors that it’s not, no more than, if you go in and you borrow from, from other banks..”
McEnery: “You know, you don’t go around, telling other people exactly what you’re…”
Finucane: “But I could, I could, like the bank couldn’t. But I could. And I could say I borrowed 125,000 to buy a house off Brian McEnery, I mean I can say that because it’s my business. I mean the bank has to retain confidentiality but I can tell the pope of Rome if I want to..”
McEnery: “Yeah. Well. I can tell you this. If a debtor, and we are working with a number of debtors around Dublin where they’re building houses and they’re absolutely perfectly free to go out and talk about their interactions. We would actually be happy for them to go and talk about their interactions with Nama.”
Finucane: “Then why did they have to go and sign a contract to say they wouldn’t?”
McEnery: “That was in relation to the original business planning process. They don’t now, they don’t now have to go off and sign confidentiality agreements.”
Finucane: “All right. Now, every time it comes up at the PAC, the Public Accounts Committee, about the non-answerability, the secrecy, oversight and all of that, it has always been said, by the two gentlemen, oh the C&AG, the Comptroller and Auditor General’s office has oversight, we are answerable to the Comptroller and Auditor General, as somebody said, it was the blanket behind which it was hidden and the minute the Comptroller and Auditor General says, I don’t like this, I’m not happy with that, you get very, very exercised. We have invited Nama, for a spokesperson on this programme, I cannot tell you how many times and not a dickie bird, not questions to be answered and I’ve no doubt that other journalists, and print journalists, have done the same. But, out of the traps, was Frank Daly. Then we see Brendan McDonagh iand thank you very much for coming on our programme but you don’t accept the Comptroller and Auditor General’s authority?”
McEnery: “No, and I’m going to tell you why. I’m going to tell you why. And I’m glad cause I’d like a minute or two to talk about this, if I could. And, firstly, I’d be delighted to come on the Marian Finucane show anytime..”
Finucane: “Oh, well, that’s good, thank you.”
McEnery:[Laughs] But. So. I’m an auditor and accountant myself, that’s my background, Marian. And I’m chairman of the audit committee [at Nama]. I interact with the C&AG every month. It comes to our, or his [Seamus McCarthy] staff come to our audit committee meeting and, you know, when I do hear Michael McDowell saying, it’s wrong, the C&AG shouldn’t be challenged. It’s wrong for anybody in Nama to say that Nama shouldn’t be challenged..”
Finucane: “He didn’t actually say that. What he said was: neither speaks ex cathedra. He was referring to yourself and to the Comptroller and Auditor General. That’s [him] writing [in the Sunday Business Post] today.. in other words, neither party, everybody should be questioned in other words.”
McEnery: “Ah well, yeah. Let me. So. I believe, and I’m going to try and go through the, go down through one or two points as to why I believe, as an experienced auditor, I’m president of our accounting body and I’m going to try and tell you why I believe he’s wrong. Firstly, I do agree with somebody who said if the C&AG is right, Nama is wrong. And for Nama to be right, the C&AG has to be wrong. And I think he is wrong and I’ll tell you why. Firstly, I think it was [former Labour leader] Pat Rabbitte said, earlier on, the discount factor of 5.5%. It’s as if they’re the prima facies in the whole of Ireland, the United Kingdom and Europe to use a discount factor of 5.5% – it’s ridiculous.
I made my decision that this was the right thing to do. The carrying value of the loans, Marian, at that day, at the 31st of December, 2013, was 1.48billion pounds. I said the minimum discount factor, because these, and another one of your commentators is absolutely right in saying these were poor and secondary Northern Ireland assets and they were assets out of the north of England. We had German, one or two Northern Ireland borrowers had German assets, we sold those off separately. So, these are secondary assets, it would be at least a 10% discount. C&AG has we’ve made that point to C&AG on a number of occasions and how he can say that a 5.5% discount is the right discount factor to use, is, in my opinion wrong. Now, second thing is originally the C&AG went out and tendered for expert commercial advisory services, to help him with this report. He didn’t get any and he didn’t appoint any and, as a consequence, I think even by the fact he went out looking for it is an indication that he did not have good commercial expertise on this and this is ultimately…whether the taxpayer got…”
Finucane: “Yeah, but, do you know, can I just cut across you there?”
Finucane: “I mean I have no doubt of the good intentions of everybody that’s involved on your board. But you could equally say about Mr Daly, he was a civil servant who was a head of Revenue, which would have had very little indeed…”
Finucane: “To do with the kinds of deals you’re talking about now but presumably you learn as you go along?”
McEnery: “No but now, there’s a big difference Marian, we do appoint external experts, we do not make a decision without that expertise, we had Lazards. We would not have been able, as a board, to make that conclusion that this was the right thing to do. So..”
Finucane: “And did you, at any stage, consider breaking up the package?”
McEnery: “Oh we did, we did, one of your commentators…”
Finucane: “And why did you decide against that?”
McEnery: “One of your commentators this morning said this was a very big portfolio to bring at 1.3billion. In actual fact, we’ve done transactions on the size of 3billion. There are players, Marian, in the marketplace, these big companies that you talked about: Pimco, Cerberus, loans that are, there’s many of these there and in actual fact, quite truthfully, if they’re not of a certain size, they won’t participate. They need..”
Finucane: “But doesn’t that not also exclude people who would be lesser mortals than Pimco?”
McEnery: “Correct, that is true but, ultimately, we’ve got to try and devise the best strategy that we believe will ultimately get the best value. Now.”
McEnery: “A little question, though, Marian is C&AG, and as I said, I interact with him 10 or 11 times a year. He did the audit himself in 2013, he did the audit in 2014. Project Eagle was across those two years. He gave us clean audit reports, he looked at Project Eagle, he didn’t say there was a problem with Project Eagle in 2013 audit or the 2014 audit. Yes, an audit is about the truth of the financial statements but it’s also about, do the controls exist to maximise the return to the shareholders. He gave, the C&AG looked at that twice before this report and he signed off a clean audit report. The next and most important thing and fair process is awfully important and I’m chairman at HIQA and when we do an investigation in HIQA, where it’s complex, we get external expertise to assist us. So, for instance, in the Portlaoise inquiry, we had four external experts. We always meet with the party that we’re investigating. I requested three meetings with the C&AG and he refused to meet…”
McEnery: “I have to say, I think that’s wrong.”
Finucane: “Well, I mean, clearly, you’re all very cross indeed with the Comptroller and Auditor General but the fact is that he is a constitutional role within Ireland and he’s a very important person as the guardian of our financial welfare so to speak. So, I presume there is now going to be an inquiry..”
McEnery: “Well he is important and, you know what, it isn’t easy for me to, it isn’t, I’m not happy coming out and saying this but I don’t think there was proper process. He didn’t meet Lazards, our expert advisors, for instance, I mean, it’s hard to, it’s hard to see how somebody could come to a conclusion but I want to say one other important thing…”
Finucane: “Yeah, and then I’ll have to go, yeah.”
McEnery: “Yeah, which isn’t known. We get, we got a number of drafts from the C&AG, where he was doing his work and he’d send a draft. We’d go through it and then put in a response and that happened on maybe three or four occasions. And in every one of those, the word [s] ‘potential loss to the taxpayer’ was inside in it. When, when he published it, without us having a chance to go through it and having left us with the previous version which is that there was a potential loss of value to the taxpayer, he changed his wording and said there was a probable loss…”
Finucane: “Well, there you go. He arrived at that conclusion.”
McEnery: “But, well he did, but I mean, ultimately, when you talk about interacting with somebody you’re investigating, you don’t let them know about that. I mean, that’s. I have to say, that’s, I thought that was extraordinary. He gives us the draft and, down on them, the one where he asks us to give us the comment back on the word, there was a potential loss, which we would contest anyway…”
Finucane: “But I mean obviously you would because you had arrived at the decision. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are infallible..”
McEnery: “No, we’re not..”
Finucane: “The general tone, from Nama, is one of absolute infallibility..”
Finucane: “No queries, no questions, no criticism, no differences of opinion, it could be the fact that the man, and his office, differ in their opinion to the opinion of your board and that’s..”
McEnery: “But I’m trying to say, Marian, there is a process and that process would be at very much variance with how investigations would be done by, for instance, HIQA, as an example..”
Finucane: “Ok, listen, I’m going to have to, I’m going to have to leave it there cause I’ve to come back to my panel here in studio, Brian and thank you very, very much indeed for talking to us this morning. That was Brian McEnery of Nama. We’ll take a break.”
Nama chairman Frank Daly Minister for Finance Michael Noonan
The Irish Independent reports:
Nama has shrugged off criticism from the State’s most powerful spending watchdog by launching a €3bn loan sale, the Irish Independent has learned.
The State agency pulled the trigger on the massive sale yesterday, just 24 hours after the publication of a highly critical report by the the Comptroller & Auditor General (C&AG) into the agency’s handling of the controversial Project Eagle sale of Northern Ireland loans.
A Nama insider said the sale had been in the works but indicated the timing would signal ‘business as usual’ at the agency which still has a vast portfolio of loans to sell off or work out over its remaining three years.
NAMA launches sale of new portfolio of loans,Project Gem,38 borrowers,€3bn loans linked to 392 properties.It’s as if there was no CAG report
Uploaded In full (above) BBC Northern Ireland’s second Spotlight programme – presented by Mandy McAuley – on Nama’s Northern Ireland property deal, otherwise known as Project Eagle.
The documentary includes a reconstruction (top) of Frank Cushnahan, then a member of Nama’s Northern Ireland Advisory Committee, receiving £40,000 – in bundles of two – from property developer John Miskelly.
Congrats to RTÉ keeping NAMA totally out of this report. Ssssh, wouldn’t want to add to debate on what NAMA is doing… Just to be clear, today, the State sold one of your assets for €242m. No analysis, no debate, no comment.
Harcourt Street Garda HQ in Dublin and Independents 4 Change TD Mick Wallace speaking in the Dáil this afternoon
During Leaders’ Questions, Independents 4 Change TD Mick Wallace raised questions about Nama selling the Harcourt Street Garda Station, Dublin 2.
Mick Wallace: “What does the Taoiseach think of the National Asset Management Agency, NAMA, complaining to the Standards in Public Office Commission, SIPO, in March 2016 about Frank Cushnahan, given that it knew in March 2014 that this gentleman was in line for a backhander of £5 million?”
Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl: “Deputy, please, do not make allegations against somebody outside the House. It is not in order.”
Wallace: “Given that Ronnie Hanna was arrested in May 2016, can we expect NAMA to complain about him in May 2018? Aside from Frank Cushnahan, the arrest of Ronnie Hanna has brought Project Eagle back home to Dublin, yet the Government wants to bury its head in the sand.”
“It is more than a year since I first gave the Garda the name of an individual who paid €15,000 in a bag in order to get favourable treatment from NAMA as well as the name of the NAMA employee who was taking the money. There was denial all around as usual. However, the man receiving the money has since been arrested on a different charge. Meanwhile, the guy who paid the bribe is doing well for himself; there is not a bother on him. Such is business in Ireland.”
“The investment fund, Hibernia REIT, is taking a court action to have An Garda Síochána removed from Harcourt Street station. These buildings were in NAMA and they are probably the most important buildings in the country for the Garda. The command and control centre for the whole of Ireland is based there. Moving and scattering this technical centre to the four winds will undermine the workings of the Garda.”
“Will the Taoiseach explain why NAMA was allowed to sell this site to a vulture fund rather than keep it in State ownership? Hibernia REIT, which now owns the site, was set up by a guy who was a big player in NAMA where he was a portfolio manager for three years.”
“When he joined the agency, he moved his 30% shareholding in his father’s company to an offshore trust. Did he declare that to NAMA? The same company then benefitted from some lucrative work from the agency. He left NAMA in December 2012 and used his insider knowledge regarding the agency’s assets to line up investment funds that would provide the finance for the new company, Hibernia REIT, which he manages.”
“It would not require forensic examination to discover that Hibernia REIT did remarkably well in purchasing former NAMA assets, many of which this gentleman was involved with, but then that is how we do business in Ireland.”
“Does the Taoiseach not think that the public interest would be best served if we examined the complete workings of NAMA? At this stage the majority of people in Ireland believe NAMA is rotten to the core.”
Enda Kenny: “It is not the first time Deputy Wallace has raised a matter in respect of NAMA, which is a matter of public interest. As I said before on quite a number of occasions, the advice given to me by the authorities is that this loan portfolio was sold following an open process to the highest bidder.”
“On the questions of allegations against certain individuals in Northern Ireland, NAMA paid no moneys to any party on this loan sale against whom allegations of wrongdoing are now being made and, as I said before, if somebody has evidence, they should bring that to the authorities.”
“I am also aware that two individuals that the Deputy mentioned were held for questioning in respect of the UK National Crime Agency, NCA, investigation into the Northern Ireland assets owned by NAMA and I am advised that the NCA has confirmed to NAMA that no aspect of the agency’s activities are under investigation.”
“I welcomed this previously, as did the Minister for Finance. These allegations are serious and, clearly, they have to be, and are being, investigated in that jurisdiction. Taking into account the investigations that are under way, the Minister for Finance has a view that no specific line of inquiry here can stand up and be usefully pursued by a commission of investigation. Many allegations have been made.”
“The appropriate investigations are already taking place in the appropriate jurisdictions and it would be unwise to launch a very costly commission of investigation on claims that are currently under investigation by the authorities.”
“The Deputy mentioned before the issue that he raised. These are specific allegations of wrongdoing. If there are ones that are not being investigated, obviously they should be brought to the attention of the Garda and the authorities. If this is an issue that is appropriate to a commission of investigation, we need more details on what the Deputy has there and in the absence of such specific allegations, it is right and proper that the appropriate authorities should have the time and space required to compete their investigations.”
“The Deputy has raised the issue of the Garda station in Harcourt Street. I am aware of the situation there in so far as their being asked to move out is concerned. I think there is an objection lodged to that. Obviously, investigations, as I said, are going on in the Northern Ireland jurisdiction as well.”
“The Comptroller and Auditor General is required, under section 226 of the NAMA Act, to produce a report every three years – that office is a completely independent body – assessing the extent to which NAMA has made progress towards achieving its overall objective.”
“NAMA and the Comptroller and Auditor General appeared before the Committee of Public Accounts on 9 July last year. At that appearance the Comptroller and Auditor General indicated that his next section 226 report would look in detail at a sample of NAMA disposals and a sample of properties held by it for investment and, furthermore, that a specific review of Project Eagle, under section 9 of the Comptroller and Auditor General Act, would be undertaken. That is under way. I do not know when it will be published but I understand quite a good deal of work has been done on it.”
Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl : “Thank you, Taoiseach.”
Kenny: “The Comptroller and Auditor General has indicated that he intends to issue a report, under section 11 of the Comptroller and Auditor General Act, following this review of Project Eagle, and that is consistent with his powers to investigate, scrutinise and report independently on any aspect of NAMA’s work which may arise through its annual audits or special reports about any aspect of NAMA’s work.”
“I assume if Deputy Wallace is raising a new issue on the basis of a new allegation, I am sure he will transmit that to the Garda or the authorities as well.”
Ó Fearghaíl: “Before I bring in Deputy Wallace, I wish to say that he has raised, as the Taoiseach acknowledged, a matter of major public importance, but having regard to the Standing Orders of the House, I ask him please, notwithstanding the fact he has named individuals today and in the past, not to name individuals so as to be in compliance with Standing Orders, and not to refer to an individual in such a way as to make him or her identifiable“.
Wallace: “That is probably the worst answer the Taoiseach has ever given me in the House in relation to NAMA. He did not answer any of the questions I asked him. I never mentioned the words “Project Eagle”. I am tired talking about that in here. ”
“On that, the Taoiseach has made the point that there is no investigation into the workings of NAMA, even around that or anything else. It is blatantly obvious that the one jurisdiction where some investigation of a serious nature should be going on is the one that does not have one, and that is us. We do not want to know, or the Taoiseach does not want to know. I can understand why he does not want to know. As a matter of interest, how come no one can ever answer the question as to why NAMA never reported the fact this individual was in line for a €5 million backhander? Why, under section 19 of the Criminal Justice Act, did it not report it? Why did the Minister for Finance not report it?”
Ó Fearghaíl: “Thank you, Deputy.”
Wallace: “Will the Taoiseach answer my question? Why did NAMA sell Harcourt Street station to a vulture fund rather than keep it in State ownership? Has it anything to do with the fact that people, who were insiders, were going to benefit from it?”
Ó Fearghaíl: “Thank you, Deputy.”
Wallace: “It is just ridiculous. It is outrageous to say that no allegations have been made against NAMA in Dublin. There are bucketfuls of them. Somebody is eventually going to have to deal with it. Why will the Taoiseach not deal with it before he is gone? Otherwise it will be on his legacy that he did not want…”
Ó Fearghaíl: “Thank you, Deputy. Your time is up.”
Wallace: “…accountability or transparency around this State body.”
Kenny: “I do not accept Deputy Wallace’s assertion at all that there are people in government who do not want to know. He made a allegation. He asked me why Harcourt Street station was sold to a vulture fund. I will find out the answer for him. He made other allegations that are of a serious nature. I am quite sure he will bring them to the authorities.”
Wallace: “The Garda knows about them.”
Kenny: “I am sure that the Deputy also accepts that the Comptroller and Auditor General’s office is completely independent and it is looking at Project Eagle…”
Talk over each other
Kenny: “…and if there is any issue in respect of an allegation being made about an individual or an entity, the Comptroller and Auditor General is perfectly entitled to…”
Kenny: “Yes, he is. He is perfectly entitled to investigate that completely independently. There are a lot of rumours going around and a lot of speculation and allegations. If the Deputy has evidence, I would be the first to say to him that this will be treated seriously, as it has been in a number of other areas where commissions have been involved.”
“Claims made by Deputy Wallace about Hibernia REIT are ill-informed, inaccurate and without foundation.
Hibernia REIT did not purchase Harcourt Square from NAMA, as asserted by Deputy Wallace. Harcourt Square was sold by NAMA to Starwood Capital in 2013, as part of a large portfolio of assets called Project Aspen. Hibernia acquired the property from Starwood Capital in February 2015.
Hibernia REIT is an Irish listed and regulated public company that is investing in Ireland for the long term.
It is disappointing that Deputy Wallace has used the protection of Dail privilege to make a range of untrue allegations.”
A letter sent from the Standards in Public Office Commission to Independents 4 Change TD Mick Wallace last Thursday.
It details how, on March 2, Nama chairman Frank Daly made a complaint to SIPO about Frank Cushnahan, a former member of Nama’s Northern Ireland Advisory Committee.
It also states that SIPO will contact Mr Wallace soon to meet with the TD and possibly obtain a statement from him. SIPO also requests that Mr Wallace furnish SIPO with any documents that may help SIPO’s inquiry into the complaint against Mr Cushnahan.
In yesterday’s Sunday Independent, Gene Kerrigan wrote:
Fianna Fail has for ages been demanding an inquiry into Nama’s property deals. Last week, when Mick Wallace put down a motion to that effect, they voted against it.
No, no, they explained, we can’t have an inquiry – sure, isn’t the Comptroller and Auditor General looking into this?
Yes, the C&AG is looking at one aspect of it. Just as he was last time Fianna Fail demanded a full inquiry.
The thoroughness with which Fianna Fail has betrayed its own members and voters, and the interests of all of us, is impressive.
It’s doing a creditable job of helping Fine Gael keep the lid on the Nama scandal, while simultaneously posing as the main opposition party.
As long as the political correspondents facilitate this deception, so long will duplicity prosper.
…Fine Gael and Fianna Fail voted down an inquiry on the basis that any State scrutiny will somehow interfere with due process.
With exquisite comic reasoning, the very fact the PSNI, the NCA and the FBI are disturbed by the smell from Nama has become reason for the Irish establishment to ignore the smell. Question: what don’t they want us to know? What is it makes them pretend they don’t get a hint of a smell from the festering Cerberus deal?
…Meanwhile, Standards in Public Office has published details of the state money politicians receive. I’d explain why the State gives politicians this money, but I don’t know.
Fine Gael spent €200,000 of our money on secret polls before the election, all the better to manipulate the voters.
…Now, this polling, paid for with our money, gives politicians an advantage over candidates who don’t get a state subsidy. That sounds unconstitutional to me – perhaps under the ruling that prohibits one side in a referendum from using state funds to influence opinion.