Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan has today provided details of the three members of the much-heralded NAMA advisory board, and whilst we knew of Michael Geoghegan’s appointment as chairman of this board, and had seen reporting of Denis Rooney’s imminent appointment, the surprise is that the third member is ….. current NAMA chairman, Frank Daly. And Gerry Murphy, a managing director of a Blackstone unit and who was mooted to be the third member of the board, is….not mentioned at all. Have Minister Noonan and An Taoiseach Enda Kenny been unsettled by recent examination, reported on here but led by others, of Blackstone’s growing influence inIreland?
It seems that Frank Daly will remain the NAMA chairman, and all three advisory board members are providing their time pro-bono gratis. Michael Geoghegan is a career HSBC banker, Denis Rooney is aNorthern Irelandquango king and we all know Frank, the former Revenue Commissioners man who has assumed a prominent national role in promoting NAMA for more than two years.
No doubt to boost the commercial property asset management remit of NAMA – and probably also to make up for dropping the commercial experience expected from Blackstone’s Gerry Murphy appointment – there has been a promotion in NAMA itself, and John Mulcahy is now to become a director on the board of NAMA. The NAMA chairman, Frank Daly issued a statement, welcoming John – a man who seems to command the respect of developers, bankers and NAMA’s own staff - to the board. The amusing point is this: NAMA is only allowed have nine board members under the NAMA Act, and with John’s appointment, that leaves only one vacancy. And remember NAMA lost its Northern Ireland representative, Peter Stewart last October and also its most senior banking man, Michael Connolly last November. So how will NAMA fill the one remaining vacancy? The betting on here is that the vacancy will be filled by a Northern Ireland banker! The announcements today also smack of confusion – the closing date for the submission of applications for the two board vacancies was yesterday, 6th March. Were all the applications considered in the space of less than 24 hours?
Minister Noonan also published what he claimed to be “terms of reference” for the new troika that is the advisory board, as follows:
“Provide advice to the Minister on:
The strategy of NAMA as proposed by the board of NAMA
The appointment of directors to NAMA
The remuneration of the senior executives of NAMA
Any further advice the Minister may seek the Group to provide
The advisory group will not have decision making powers under the Act”
I can see a complaint now going to the European Commission. The Minister might claim the advisory group will not have decision-making powers but if the advisory board is reviewing NAMA strategy ex ante, and the Minister has the power to issue Directions to NAMA based on the advice of the advisory board, then as decision-making goes, it walks like a duck, looks like a duck and tastes like a duck. A complainant to the European Commission might object to the State management of NAMA and NAMA’s competitive advantages through the obvious potential for political interference.