Project Eagle: Wallace asks 20 questions on Nama sale

TD asks about role of Nama NI adviser Frank Cushnahan and Cerberus/Pimco legal teams

During a debate on Northern Ireland, Independent TD Mick  Wallace questioned the sale of the Northern Ireland loan portfolio of 850 properties. File photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

During a debate on Northern Ireland, Independent TD Mick Wallace questioned the sale of the Northern Ireland loan portfolio of 850 properties. File photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

Independent TD Mick Wallace has this afternoon raised 20 questions on the controversial Project Eagle sale by the National Asset Management Agency (Nama), which has been described as the largest property sale in Ireland’s history.

During a debate on Northern Ireland, Mr Wallace used the opportunity to question the sale of the Northern Ireland loan portfolio of 850 properties.

Mr Wallace asked the following questions, which he said the Government should answer:

1. Frank Daly has confirmed that Frank Cushnahan, formerly a member of Nama’s Northern Irish advisory committee, was one of the central participants/prospective beneficiaries to the Pimco fee arrangement. A question naturally arises around what service he had rendered to Pimco to justify his inclusion in this arrangement, and when?

2. Did Cushnahan provide external parties with confidential information which would provide same with an advantage over other bidders?

3. Is it not an implied term that Cushnahan, through his former association with Nama and subsequent involvement with a fund interested in the purchase of Nama loans, would be placed in a position that gave an unfair advantage to Pimco?

4. Why was Pimco prepared to split £15 million between Belfast solicitors, Tughans, New York lawyers, Brown and Rudnick and former Nama committee member, Frank Cushnahan?

5. When exactly did Nama know of Cushnahan’s involvement with the Pimco fee arrangement? Why was no comment ever made around this “fee arrangement” until the Public Accounts Committee hearing of the 9th July?

6. We are now on notice that Mr Cushnahan operated out of an office in Northern Irish law firm Tughans. Why and when did Frank Cushnahan have an office in Tughans? Tughans were unable to comment on when Cushnahan took up the office space and if he was operating from it and making use of Tughans’s facilities while he was a representative of Nama.

7. Nama has said Mr Cushnahan “never had access to confidential information”. Given that his potential input was deemed worthy of his inclusion in a lucrative fee arrangement with Pimco, is it not plausible that he was using confidential/insider information to distort and prejudice the bid process in order that Pimco would benefit from same?

8. Why didn’t Minister [Michael] Noonan inform the Office of First and Deputy First Ministers of this information? Or did he?

9. Why did Minister Noonan determine upon not intervening in suspending the sale of the Nama assets in the North to Cerberus, particularly when he was on notice that this prospective sale to Cerberus involved the same group of people who were part of the Pimco arrangement?

So we have awareness from Nama and Minister Noonan that a questionable arrangement had been negotiated between a number of parties which would have prejudiced the open market bidding process, yet nothing was done to prevent or suspend the determination of the overall sale/bid even in circumstances where the same law firm acting for Pimco was now acting for the successful ultimate bidder, Cerberus.

10. Was there no concern from Mr Noonan and from Nama that Brown Rudnick were conflicted in representing Cerberus, the successful bidder on the loan sale, having already represented Pimco, a company who entered into a fee arrangement with a former Nama representative around the very same loan sale?

11. Have the Dublin or London office of Brown Rudnick acted for either debtors or loan or asset purchasers in relation to Nama previously? If so, who? Have any of these deals been off-market?

12. What other dealings have Tughans had with Nama, either as counsel to Nama or acting for debtors or other buyers or potential buyers of loans?

13. Was Frank Cushnahan involved in any other arrangements with prospective bidders for Nama loan sales previous to the Pimco revelation?

14. What role if any did Mr Ron Bolger (former managing partner in KPMG Dublin) who is stated as being Cerberus’s main rep in Ireland have in this transaction? Did anyone for or on behalf of Nama ever meet him?

15. What fees did Cerberus pay A&L Goodbody and Linklaters who, as outlined by Brendan McDonagh at the PAC hearing, advised Cerberus until such time as Pimco were forced to opt out of the bid process?

16. Can it be guaranteed that Brown Rudnick did not enter into a similar “fee arrangement” with Cerberus for the Northern Ireland loan portfolio?

17. Frank Daly (chairman of Nama) advised that it was Nama’s understanding that Cerberus instructed Tughans, only after Pimco had pulled out of the bid. Can this be confirmed or were both funds using the same law firms concurrently?

18. Frank Daly openly stated during the PAC hearing that Nama did not have a problem with Brown Rudnick or Tughans. Daly explained that the issue for Nama was Mr Cushnahan’s involvement in the Pimco arrangement. Can this really be the position of Nama when Mr Cushnahan was in fact working within the law offices of Tughans? Can Nama object to Mr Cushnahan’s involvement in the Pimco arrangement without objecting to Tughans?

19. Brendan McDonagh asserted at the PAC hearing that Cerberus bought the Northern Ireland loan portfolio for £1.241 billion sterling. We have been consistently told by Nama that the portfolio was sold for significantly more, ie, £1.3 billion sterling. Mr McDonagh at the PAC hearing continuously erred in outlining that the ultimate sale price was £1.3 billion sterling subsequent to conceding at the very same hearing that the actual number realised was in fact nearly £60 million less.

20. Why did Cerberus change lawyers after Pimco’s withdrawal from the bid? It surely raises question marks when the bidding party determines that their existing representation, Linklaters, one of the world’s largest law firms, should be replaced by another firm in the midst of the bidding process. What advantages did Cerberus see in bringing Brown Rudnick in? Did Nama not think it dubious that this decision was made particularly in circumstances where Brown Rudnick had been central to the “fee arrangement” that was previously negotiated through Pimco?