Nama adviser planned portfolio sale with €20m success fee

Cushnahan was on advisory board at time of Project Eagle proposal

Belfast businessman Frank Cushnahan was directly engaged in a plan to sell Nama's Northern Ireland loans, that would involve a £15 million (€20.4 million) success fee, for several months before he resigned from the agency's advisory board in November 2013, it has emerged.

Cerberus Capital Management's purchase of the Project Eagle loans in April 2014 for £1.241 billion is at the centre of a series of investigations prompted by claims that politicians and businessmen were to share £6 million that was transferred from Belfast lawyers, Tughans, to an Isle of Man bank account last year.

The company denies any wrongdoing.

Success fee

It has emerged that, without Nama's knowledge, Mr Cushnahan joined forces with accountant David Watters and Tughans managing partner, Ian Coulter, in early 2013, as a plan was being developed to seek a single buyer for the agency's loans to Northern Ireland-linked borrowers.


According to US company Pimco, which bid for the portfolio, a success fee of £5 million was to be paid to each of Mr Cushnahan, Tughans and US lawyers, Brown Rudnick.

A letter written by Mr Watters states that Mr Coulter set up a special purpose company, Cadogan Futures LLP, to receive this money.

Mr Cushnahan was still on Nama's Northern Ireland Advisory Committee and only resigned in November 2013.

He also had links to some of companies which owed the State agency a total of €6 billion.

This week, former Northern Ireland first minister Peter Robinson told a committee investigating the sale that he, Mr Cushnahan and Mr Coulter met Pimco in Stormont on May 22nd, 2013.

Mr Robinson, who described as “outrageous” claims that he was one of those to benefit from the £6 million, said he did not believe that attending the meeting created any conflict of interest for Mr Cushnahan.

Pimco left the Project Eagle auction in March 2014 after informing Nama of the payments it had agreed to make to Mr Cushnahan, Tughans and Brown Rudnick.

Tughans and Brown Rudnick then moved to work for Cerberus, which assured Nama that no one connected with the agency was involved in its bid.

Mr Cushnahan has said that he had no contact with the US company.

Cerberus secured the loan portfolio, then known as Project Eagle, with a £1.241 billion offer in April 2014.

The UK's National Crime Agency, the Northern Ireland Assembly Finance and Personnel Committee and the Law Society of Northern Ireland are all investigating aspects of the deal and the transfer of cash to the Isle of Man.

Isle of Man

Mr Coulter left Tughans in January this year in a dispute over diverted fees. The law firm discovered late in 2014 that £6 million of a £7.5 million payment from Brown Rudnick for work on the Cerberus deal had been transferred to an Isle of Man account that its managing partner controlled.

He has said that the transfer was a complex, commercially – and legally – sensitive issue. Tughans disputes his version of events and has passed documents to the Law Society of Northern Ireland, which is investigating.

Nama said yesterday that Mr Cushnahan never disclosed any interest to it relating to Pimco or its attempts to buy the loan portfolio.

The agency pointed out that members of the advisory board had to file an annual statement of interests. Mr Cushnahan’s representative said he would not comment.

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O’Halloran covers energy, construction, insolvency, and gaming and betting, among other areas

Francess McDonnell

Francess McDonnell

Francess McDonnell is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in business