NTMA says no conflict of interest over Arthur Cox working for Bank of Ireland


THE NATIONAL Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) has said it is confident there is no conflict of interest between the work of solicitor firm Arthur Cox for Bank of Ireland and its appointment as legal adviser to the National Assets Management Agency (Nama).

Arthur Cox was confirmed as the winner of a tender process to provide legal services to Nama on Thursday. The company, which employs 600 people, has also been appointed to advise Bank of Ireland on its dealings with Nama.

The contract was awarded by the NTMA, under whose aegis Nama is being established. Seventeen legal firms tendered for the lucrative advisory work, which will run until September.

Fine Gael TD Phil Hogan said the decision to appoint Arthur Cox was outrageous, given its work with Bank of Ireland.

He said the contract should not have gone to any firm that had worked for the banks. It should have gone outside the country if necessary, he said.

“The most important point is that Nama should inspire confidence; using a firm that works for a bank does not inspire confidence,” he said. “I can’t understand how the Minister [for Finance] could proceed with this.”

A spokesman for Nama told The Irish Times that it had asked each of the applicants to set out potential areas of conflict and they were fully aware of the firm’s work for Bank of Ireland.

He said there was a small pool of advisers in Ireland and all, to a greater or lesser extent, were involved with the banks. “None can wriggle away white,” he said.

They were confident and satisfied there was no issue around conflict of interest, he said. And they had received assurances from Arthur Cox that the team working for Nama would be “ring-fenced”.

He pointed out that Arthur Cox had worked with Bank of Ireland and the Department of Finance during the recapitalisation of the banks. Two teams from that firm had faced each other across the negotiating table during the process, he said.

“We shortlisted three firms and there was a huge difference as far as the taxpayers were concerned,” he added.

The spokesman also said Nama would be advertising separately in the next few weeks for a panel of legal advisers who would be called on to go into the banks and carry out due diligence work.

A spokesman for Arthur Cox declined to comment.