Cantillon: Nama faces sole Cushnahan sanction

Former member of Nama’s Northern advisory committee has questions to answer

The controversy over the National Asset Management Agency's sale of its loans to borrowers in Northern Ireland is continuing to roll on. The State agency recently provided the Stormont committee that is investigating the €1.6 billion deal with a series of answers to questions posed to it arising out of its previous submissions.

One of the documents provided is a letter to Frank Cushnahan, a former member of Nama's Northern Ireland advisory committee, who sought a £5 million success fee from Pimco, a bidder for the portfolio, several months after he had resigned from his role with the agency.

The letter queries two things. The first is his shareholding in Gareth Graham’s property business, which is now fighting a legal battle with the successful bidder, Cerberus. The Belfast-based group was one of Nama’s debtors and says Cushnahan still owns shares in it, although he maintains that he cut all ties with it long before joining the committee.

The second is his presence at a meeting with Pimco in May 2013 also attended by Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson and the then managing partner of Belfast law firm Tughans, Ian Coulter. The advisory committee discussed Pimco's interest in what became the Project Eagle portfolio at a meeting Cushnahan attended in October 2013.


By then, he, Coulter and Belfast accountant David Watters had come up with a proposal to sell Project Eagle and proposed they should get a £15 million success fee if a deal went through. Pimco was interested in buying the loans. This may have given Cushnahan an interest that he should have declared when the matter was raised at the Northern Ireland committee meeting in October. It is also possible he should have declared an interest in the Graham business.

Nama put the questions to him towards the end of last month. Presumably it acted on the back of the various revelations about his dealings with Project Eagle since the row blew up earlier this year. Cushnahan has said he disclosed all his interests to Nama while he was on the committee.

It is open to the agency to refer him to the Standards in Public Office Commission if it believes he did not comply with those obligations. This is the only sanction available to Nama as he resigned from the advisory committee in November 2013.