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NAMA Has Been a Dream Come True for Many US Vulture Funds...
Monday July 20, 2015 21:27 by postman
Mick Wallace Dail Diary for 10th July
The controversy over NAMA's sale of the Nothern Ireland loan portfolio, Project Eagle, has not gone away. It suited the Government just fine when the PAC said they would bring NAMA before the committee. - It also suited NAMA, whose polished performance was always going to give them some breathing space, given that the PAC, - no disrespect to any of it's members - just doesn't have the wherewithal to hold them to account. Here is a part of my piece on the workings of NAMA from last Tuesday, when we were debating a Housing Bill . -
"Aside from what seem to be a lot of spurious deals where it appears the taxpayer could have fared a great deal better, NAMA is actually boasting that it will make approximately €1 billion in profit over the six to eight year period. That still leaves the taxpayer about €40 billion short. Given that the market has been rising for a while, it is outrageous that more was not realised.
The point the Deputy made about the social dividend and NAMA's failure to provide it is a frightening one. What is really uncomfortable is the fact that we have a serious level of inconsistency in how NAMA has done its business. Sometimes it applies its rules rigidly and sometimes it does not. A simple example is that of the Dublin GAA trying to get hold of the Spawell but failing to do so. It beggars belief that a sporting organisation in Ireland would not have been facilitated and given a little bit of an extra chance. It is not like the GAA was going to make money on it. It intended to provide a social outlet for young people and should have been helped by NAMA. NAMA will argue that it is under an obligation to maximise the potential of the asset for the taxpayer. When it makes that argument, I would like NAMA to explain its approach when a bidder went to buy not the loans but the debt of the Chicago Spire, which was at $78 million plus costs which brought it to approximately $93 million. An investor sought to buy the debt, and this was every penny that was owed to the bank. This was not the reduced value, but the par value.
In other words, this investor was prepared to pay the debt in full but NAMA gave it to Jones Lang LaSalle in New York to sell. This was a site in Chicago. Even if NAMA thought it could get more for it, it was not in New York that it would have got it. It would have been interesting if it had marketed it in Chicago. Why could NAMA not accept the debt being bought out? It is estimated that it was sold for $35 million. NAMA refused $78 million, plus the cost, and it accepted a figure in the region of €35 million. That was claimed to be in the interests of the taxpayer in the same way as NAMA not accepting the bid from Dublin GAA for the Spawell because it claimed it was maximising the potential of the asset.
It is horrendous that NAMA could not deliver housing units for Dublin, in particular where there is such a serious housing crisis. It beggars belief. The argument was spun that certain property was not really suitable. The funny thing about that is that NAMA did not want to give much of the property that was suitable to the State because it was attractive to investors. What has happened is that vulture funds, mostly from the US, were allowed to cherry pick the best of it because NAMA sought to sell the best of it to them. It then considered some of the other property, which was not quite as attractive to the vulture funds, for social or affordable housing.
NAMA is a State body over which governments - this one and the previous one - do not seem to have much control. Issues are raised about it. The idea that the Comptroller and Auditor General has it all in hand beggars belief. I have seen too many things which I do not believe the Comptroller and Auditor General has seen, and I am going to give him the benefit of the doubt that he is honest. It would be an incredible challenge for the Comptroller and Auditor General and the few people working with him to keep tabs on everything that is happening within NAMA. It would be a massive challenge, and it is not only about auditing. Does the Comptroller and Auditor General have expertise in the area of markets, construction and the future potential of assets? Does he have all those people working for him in order to be able to test the waters and ensure NAMA is doing what is best for the taxpayer at every turn? It is asking way to much of the Comptroller and Auditor General to think that he could come up with all those answers. He would be an amazing man, irrespective of how many people he had working with him.
Sadly, there is now the idea that the Committee of Public Accounts can examine this, behind which the Government can hide, as if it is an Oireachtas investigation and the committee will see if everything is all right. That is not what will happen. If those in government want to know the truth and if they really want to know if the taxpayer was best served in these deals, they will eventually have to initiate an independent inquiry into the workings of NAMA. It is extremely important because not only are we dealing with things that have happened - people must be held responsible for what they have done - but there are so many assets still to be sold. Will that be done right? At present, we do not know and given that NAMA remains a secret society, we do not have a real opportunity to see how it operates. An independent investigation might bring us that. There is a great deal of money at stake. The figures are astronomical so it is extremely important the State addresses this.
The Government should not put this off and kick the can down the road. We need an independent inquiry established right now. How it would be structured is an argument for another day. The Government will probably have to bring in some people from outside the country. I refer to many of the more senior players in the services the Government might use. There is such an incestuous nature to much of what goes on this country that the Government will probably have to bring in some external expertise."
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*Government must act now to halt NAMA Sale of Project Arrow...
*Billions at stake for the Irish taxpayer...
The problems related to the workings of NAMA have not gone away, and we really do need an Independent Commission of Investigation, now, rather than later. We need a forensic examination by independent experts, preferably from outside the country, to ascertain whether the maximum return has been achieved for the Irish taxpayer in all transactions to date. We also need to consider how NAMA should best deal with its remaining loan portfolios and assets.
Given all that has transpired with the Northern Ireland loan portfolio Project Eagle, it does appear that Minister for Finance Michael Noonan would have been well advised to have suspended the sale of same following the Pimco revelations – especially given the fact that successful bidder Cerberus dropped its legal team and hired the very same law firms which had worked with Pimco, namely Brown Rudnick and Tughans.
Many may feel that the horse has bolted but that's not completely true. Presently, NAMA is looking to sell Project Arrow – which has a par value of €8.4bn – in one lot. This is made up of 90% Irish real estate, of which 50% is residential and the rest of mixed use. The loans are generally non-performing, so we are likely looking at a very serious write down.
NAMA has appointed Cushman & Wakefield's Corporate Finance team to sell the €8.4bn Project Arrow. This company was until very recently owned by the Agnelli family from Torino, the owners of Juventus. It was sold in May 2015 to DTZ, who were taken over last year by private equity giant TPG. They have a 20% stake in Sherry Fitzgerald's commercial property business and were joined last year by former NAMA Portfolio Manager Donal Kelleher.
Selling close to 500 different loans in one lot does not have any chance of realising best value for the taxpayer – the more loans thrown into the one basket, the more that loan value is driven down. Once again, NAMA are creating a scenario whereby only a US vulture fund is likely to have the wherewithal to purchase, thus excluding Ireland-based investors. Also given that 90% of Project Arrow is Irish real estate, we are most likely to see many medium sized Irish businesses driven to the wall as the new owners ruthlessly chase down the loans. The winner from this exercise will not be the Irish taxpayer or the relevant Irish businesses but faceless US vulture funds.
I believe that our Minister for Finance Michael Noonan must immediately act and suspend the sale of Project Arrow before it's too late. This must be the first response, along with bringing in the necessary independent expertise to establish what has been happening in NAMA and what is the best way forward for the people of Ireland
Is it not true that NM Rothchild advised the Irish government on the setting up of NAMA, This is a family business of the ultra wealthy Rothchilld dynasty who were one of the main bondholders in the bailout, does anyone see a conflict of interest?