Noonan expresses confidence in Nama despite PAC findings

Minister also defends his meeting with Cerberus ahead of deadline for Project Eagle bids

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan has expressed confidence in Nama, despite the findings of a PAC report. File photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan has expressed confidence in Nama, despite the findings of a PAC report. File photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan has expressed his confidence in Nama and its senior leadership in spite of the many adverse findings against the agency in the Public Accounts Committee’s report on the sale of Project Eagle loans in 2014.

The Minister and Taoiseach Enda Kenny have also strongly disputed a conclusion by the committee that it was not “procedurally appropriate” for Mr Noonan to have met a senior representative from Cerberus in March 2014, just before final bids were due to be lodged for Project Eagle.

The committee said this could have given the perception that Cerberus was benefiting from preferential treatment.

Cerberus acquired the loan portfolio, which related to Nama’s Northern Ireland debtors, for €1.43 billion.

This resulted in a loss of €800 million being incurred by Nama on its Northern Ireland loans.

The committee found that the sales strategy was “seriously deficient” and cited a “failure of corporate governance” by Nama in not removing Frank Cushnahan from its Northern Ireland advisory committee once he had declared that he was working as a consultant for certain debtors.

When asked if the Minister had confidence in Nama’s leadership in light of the committee’s adverse findings, a spokesman for Mr Noonan said the Minister had “previously expressed confidence” in Nama and “the publication of the report today by the PAC does not change his confidence” in the agency.

‘Acted appropriately’

Asked whether Nama chief executive Brendan McDonagh or chairman Frank Daly might consider their positions following the committee’s criticisms of the agency, a spokesman for Nama said: “The issue does not arise. Nama considers that it acted appropriately in the conduct of this transaction.”

Nama rejected the committee’s findings.

“It was the board’s commercial and considered judgment, in full knowledge of the financial implications, that the sale of the Project Eagle loan portfolio provided a better financial outcome than any alternative monetisation strategy,” it said.

“That was the board’s view in 2014 and it remains the board’s view today.”

In a politically-charged finding against Mr Noonan, the public spending watchdog – which has a reputation for being nonpartisan – split along party lines for the first time in its 94-year history, with the four Fine Gael members, and Labour’s Alan Kelly, opposing the conclusion.

It was carried by eight votes to five.

Speaking in the US, Mr Kenny said Mr Noonan had acted “entirely appropriately” in his dealings with Cerberus.

The report is to be discussed by the Dáil next week, when the establishment of a commission of investigation into the sale is to be debated.