The Irish Credit Bureau's (ICB) chairman and another director quit on Monday at the end of a wind-up meeting, claiming the board had become "fractious" in recent years. The company's days were numbered after an Italian firm won the contract in 2015 to run the new Central Bank credit register.
Long-standing chairman Paschal Taggart alleged in an address to the liquidation meeting that ICB's shareholders – led by AIB, Bank of Ireland and Ulster Bank – failed to fight the Central Bank's awarding of the tender to Bologna-based credit and business data group CRIF because they were "petrified" of the regulator following the financial crash, according to sources who took part in the virtual event.
Non-executive director and 1 per cent shareholder Paul MacKay, a founding member of the Progressive Democrats who stands to recover a fraction of his original 2007 investment of almost €1 million, said the banks were “cowardly” in not opposing the actions of the Central Bank, the sources said.
The ICB and CRIF were the final two parties involved in the procurement process before the Central Bank awarded the Italian firm the contract in February 2015 to operate its Central Credit Register (CCR).
The Republic's international bailout overseers between 2010 and 2013 – the EU-IMF troika – had pushed for the establishment of the CCR under the aegis of the Central Bank to ensure mandatory reporting of all loans in the State of more than €500.
Mr Taggart, a seasoned Irish corporate boardroom operator, told the extraordinary general meeting (egm) that the Central Bank’s awarding of the contract to CRIF “defied logic” as it had “zero historical data” and it would take three to four years before their credit reports were meaningful.
“I am not shareholder, but I believe it does pose the question: had the Central Bank the right, with the stroke of a pen, to essentially take over ICB’s business for free, which had been in existence for nearly 50 years?” sources quoted Mr Taggart as saying at the meeting.
He said that ICB was worth “at least €100 million” before its functions were essentially taken over by the CCR, which outsourced operations to CRIF.
The net value of the ICB’s assets stood at €4.5 million at the end of 2020, according to its most recent set of accounts. The company had warned repeatedly in its annual financial statements in recent years that its future was “uncertain” after the CCR started collecting information and issuing credit reports to lenders in 2017.
ICB stopped providing services from October 1st, after its larger users had indicated they had intended to stop using it. It had continued to make an operating profit up until at least the end of 2020.
A spokeswoman for the Central Bank declined to comment on the remarks made at the egm.
“As a public body, the Central Bank is obliged to follow relevant public procurement rules including publication of the tender documents. Following the procurement process, CRIF Ireland Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of CRIF SpA, were awarded the contract based on the most economically advantageous tender received,” she said.
Former ICB chief executive Mary Leonard – who resigned at the end of last year as the company prepared to be put into voluntary liquidation – spokesmen for AIB and Bank of Ireland and a spokeswoman for Ulster Bank, all of whom have representatives on ICB's board, declined to comment on the remarks made at the egm.
Luke Charleton and Colin Farquharson of EY were appointed as liquidators of ICB at Monday's meeting.
Meanwhile, sources said that ICB recently agreed to sell its premises and wider site in Clonskeagh, Dublin 14, for more than €2 million to University College Dublin, whose campus adjoins the property. The sale is expected to be completed by the liquidators in the coming months.