Nama claims it was ‘unaware’ of Cushnahan’s Pimco link
Agency says adviser did not declare his expected role at the firm after Project Eagle sale
Former Northern Ireland adviser to Nama Frank Cushnahan. File photograph: Press Eye
Nama has said its former Northern Ireland adviser Frank Cushnahan did not declare to the agency that he expected to be employed by a US investment fund which was a bidder for the controversial Project Eagle portfolio.
Nama yesterday said it was unaware of Mr Cushnahan’s “understanding” that he could be “appointed to an executive role with appropriate remuneration” by the fund, Pimco, after the purchase of the Project Eagle loan book which involved Northern Ireland loans.
Pimco withdrew from the sale in 2014 when its compliance department reported that Mr Cushnahan was due to receive a success fee at the completion of the sale.
The Project Eagle loans were later sold to another US investment fund, Cerberus, for £1.24 billion (€1.6 billion).
The Comptroller & Auditor General, in a report published last week, said the sale resulted in a probable loss to the taxpayer of more than €200 million, as Nama offered a too large discount to the purchaser. Nama is strenuously disputing the comptroller’s findings.
Mr Cushnahan denies he was a party to any agreement to receive a success fee of £5 million if the sale to Pimco went through.
However, in a statement issued to the Sunday Independent through his lawyers, he said his understanding was that “there was the possibility that I could be appointed by them to an executive role with appropriate remuneration”.
He said that he has done nothing wrong, and he may take legal proceedings against the BBC which broadcast the recording. Pimco did not respond to requests for comment yesterday.
Nama kept up its attacks on the C&AG’s report yesterday, with the chairman of its audit committee and board member Brian McEnery again criticising the comptroller, the State’s spending watchdog, for not getting outside experts involved in its assessment of the Project Eagle sale.
“He said if more detailed information had been released then “we would not get the same kind of yield on behalf of the taxpayer.”
“It isn’t as if everything has been perfect in Nama. There have been one or two leaks of information and when that happened we came in for a mighty amount of criticism,” Mr McEnery said.
Nama chief executive Brendan McDonagh, writing in the Sunday Business Post, suggested that abandoning the Project Eagle sale would have made it difficult for the agency to sell other loan books and so endangered the State’s return from the Nama process, currently projected to be some €2.3 billion.
Separately, Sinn Féin deputy leader and Public Accounts Committee member Mary Lou McDonald said Minister for Finance Michael Noonan should come before the committee to answer questions about the sale.
The Irish Times reported on Saturday that the Department of Finance was unclear about whether Mr Noonan would go before the committee.
Ms McDonald told RTÉ’s The Week in Politics that if Mr Noonan decided not to appear before the PAC his position would become untenable.
Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar said Ministers are held accountable in the Dáil and should not go before the PAC.
Cerberus said that it did not wish to comment on whether it would appear at the committee’s inquiry.