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Archive for December 15th, 2012

Quote of the Week

With fallout from Budget 2013 continuing unabated and a high profile act of dissent amid extraordinary acrimony which has taken many aback, this week produced a bumper crop of memorable quotes.

“Well the situation on child benefit Sean is that there has been a debate running for a very long time whether the best off people should be in receipt of child benefit and there is a report under the chairmanship of Ita Mangin completed [yeah but you didn’t go into that detail before the election,you kept it really simple “protect child benefit, vote Labour” ]Yeah, well, yeah, I mean, isn’t that what you tend to do in an election” Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte on RTE television’s The Week in Politics 9th December 2012 responding to a challenge on the Labour Party’s commitment not to cut child benefit

“I’m very glad you’re giving me the opportunity to deal with the misrepresentation of that. What Sean O’Rourke said to me in respect of the famous ad was “you didn’t explain all of that at the time, you kept it simple, don’t cut child benefit” and I said yes, isn’t that what you tend to do, meaning keeping the ad simple, it’s not possible to present an ad in a general or any other time without keeping it simple, you can’t write an essay of explanation to accompany the ad and that’s all I was referring to and of course it has been grossly and maliciously misrepresented since, to be honest it’s a diversion as are a lot of other things Aine” Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte on RTE radio’s Morning Ireland on 14th December 2012

“We can’t afford self indulgence at this time. Any single member of the Labour Party, male or female could have gone pirouetting on the plinth parading their struggle with their conscience and saying “watch me now as I agonise about this decision” and so on, any one of them could have done that, instead they took the hard decision” Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte on RTE radio’s Morning Ireland on 14th December 2012

“And I have watched disputes and so on but some of the interventions that I have seen over the last couple of weeks , I have to say I haven’t seen that type of calculated venom before [what do you mean “calculated venom”? from within the Party or outside?] From people aah [pause] now outside” Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Pat Rabbitte on Morning Ireland on Friday 14th December 2012

“Of the issue of the chairmanship, it is a gift of the members of the Labour Party and not of the leader. And I would put myself in front of a conference. If Eamon Gilmore believes that we need an early conference to talk about the chair. I think we need an early conference to talk about the direction of the Labour Party “ Labour Party chairperson (currently) and Labour parliamentary party TD (formerly!) Colm Keaveney talking to Galway FM on Friday 14th December, 2012.

“This budget is difficult, but in the times in which we live, it is a fair budget, and one which in many ways reflects Labour’s core values.” An Tanaiste and leader of the Labour Party, Eamon Gilmore after the passage of the controversial Social Welfare Bill

“The Deputy has made a disgraceful comment about Ministers. I assure him that none of them was funded by the assets of Northern Bank… It ill behoves him to talk about the raw emotion of women, in particular, having regard to some of the incidents that occurred in his lifetime and with which he was associated, which resulted not in just raw emotion but which had tragic consequences… Perhaps some day he might tell the truth about the tragedy, the remorse and the compassion that should have been shown to Jean McConville.” An Taoiseach Enda Kenny with his stock response to challenges from Sinn Fein during Leaders Questions on 12th December, 2012 which goaded accusations of defamation from the Sinn Fein leader, Gerry Adams and angry exchanges which eventually led to the Dail being suspended. Got it? The official response to any challenge to the Government from Sinn Fein is “Northern Bank..McConville..the Troubles”

“The mess that was left for us to clean up requires difficult decisions that have an impact on people’s lives “ An Taoiseach Enda Kenny with his stock response to challenges from Fianna Fail during Leaders Questions on 12th December, 2012. Got it? The official response to any challenge to the Government from Fianna Fail, even 22 months into the new administration is “we’re cleaning up your mess”

“[The word "lie" is not appropriate in any circumstances.] I cannot hear what the Chair is saying. [ I am asking the Deputy to withdraw the word "liar"] I will not withdraw that word or any other word I have used in this Chamber today. A lie is a lie and a liar is a liar. The people at home viewing these proceedings know that full well.[ There are other words that can be used] “Untruth”, perhaps? [ Yes]   Then I shall withdraw the offensive term “lie” and instead use the word “untruth”, “porky pie” or “Pinocchio”. Are those words allowable? “ Sinn Fein TD, spokesperson on Public Expenditure and Reform and deputy leader, Mary Lou McDonald at Leaders Questions on 13th December, 2012 giving the speaker the deaf-ear before eventually withdrawing a proscribed word in the Dail and substituting it with a series of alternatives, with “Pinnochio” accompanied by a sweeping elephant-trunk gesture to an extending nose. She was referring the Labour Party commitment to not cut child benefit

“This State had the smallest number of surgeons per head of population in the western world, with the result that waiting lists had ballooned” Senator John Crown or Professor John Crown, oncologist tweeting during the week and maybe making one of the more substantial contributions to political debate.

Hoax of the Week

After a budget which will be amongst the draconian ever for lower paid citizens with children, it might seem plausible that some good news should be forthcoming from the Department of Finance. And it seems that some people have been receiving bogus telephone calls pretending to be from the Department of Finance offering tax refunds of €2,000 in return for an upfront payment of €250 and personal details. It is a scam, but you can imagine how the calls might go “Hello, Michael here” Most workers in the State will be paying €264 in extra income tax/PRSI in 2013 so the upfront payment has a ring of familiarity to it.

The Department of Finance wrote on its website.

“The Department of Finance has today (13/12/2012) warned of fraudulent phone call purporting to come from the Department of Finance  seeking personal information from taxpayers in connection with a refund of up to €2,000. The caller tells the recipient that they are due a €2,000 refund but will need to deposit €250 in lieu of tax into a bank account to receive the refund. The caller also asks the recipient to submit personal details including date of birth and bank account details. These calls are not coming from the Department of Finance. The Department of Finance never contacts members of the public in relation to payments or refunds.  Anyone who provided bank information in response to these calls should contact their bank or credit card company immediately”

Table of the Week

The religious denomination analyses from the UK’s Census in March 2011 were published this week, and in the case of Northern Ireland, they made for stark reading, with evidence of a par being reached between the numbers of Catholics and Protestants. The forecast, using the experience of the last intercensal period is that by 2016, the number of Catholics will equal Protestants, which given the historical association of Catholicism with Nationalism and Protestantism with Unionism, might prompt some sober reality-checking in Ireland and Britain.

Man of the Week

This week global bank HSBC agreed to pay USD 1.92bn (€1.5bn) in fines in the US following revelations earlier this year in a Senate report that the company had enabled money laundering to the benefit of Mexican drug cartels and Iran. Two people cited in the Senate report are now sucking at this State’s teat – namely Brendan McDonagh and Michael Geoghegan. It should be stressed that the Brendan McDonagh referred to is on the NTMA board but is a separate Brendan McDonagh to the CEO of NAMA – just coincidence that you have two senior people with the same name in the NTMA (under whose imbrella, NAMA falls). There has been a trend in recent times for folks to adopt a second initial like John C Corrigan or John A Moran, maybe the NAMA CEO should consider such an unfamiliar affection himself so that people like the business editor of the Independent don’t confuse them. Here Maeve, spot the difference:

[the NAMA CEO is on the left]

The UK’s Guardian carried better than average coverage of the fine during the week and had this to say about our man of the week, Michael Geoghegan who is now, at Minister for Finance Michael Noonan’s instigation, the chair of the NAMA board having produced a lackluster report on the Agency last year. Michael provides his time free of charge though the Board has an annual budget of €40,000 for just four meetings, so his intake from the State’s teat is limited.

“3. Michael Geoghegan

Left HSBC as a result of Green’s decision to enter government. He was chief executive from 2006 and hoped to step up to chairman. But he lost out in an internal battle and quit after 37 years. In 2010, amid a row about bankers’ bonuses, Geoghegan diverted his £4m bonus to charity – one run by his wife Jania. He has since advised the Irish government on its “bad bank” Nama.”

Forgotten what Michael looks like, Japlandic might help

[Graphic above produced by Japlandic.com, contact here]

Evidence of The Gathering being a Shakedown of the Week

TommyBroughan

Remember the Global Irish Forum at Dublin Castle in October 2011 when a group of the Diapora offered to serve on state boards free of charge? With the intention of providing a different perspective which would hopefully lead to a cross-pollination of ideas and strengthen the governance and efficiency of quangos and state agencies? 14 months later, how many state boards have taken up the offer of free expertise from giants of global industry? It is understood the answer is zero, but when the Labour TD Tommy Broughan (pictured above) asked the ranine enterprise minister, Richard Bruton, the response was that no track was kept of such appointments! So Diaspora, be sure to visit Ireland in 2013, spend a few bucks on services and amenities that will be temporarily over-inflated just for you, but be sure to leave afterwards, we wouldn’t want you upending the local ecology long since built on world-class gombeenism.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation   the number of executives of multinational companies that have offered to serve on State boards; the members of the Irish diaspora that have been appointed to State boards under the remit of his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55800/12]

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton:   In line with Government Policy, the process for making appointments to State Boards has, since mid-2011, been administered through the Public Appointments Service (PAS). PAS publicly invites Expressions of Interest from all interested parties, including those of the type referred to in the question. These applications are not categorised by reference to the occupational background of the applicants within their own organisation or on whether they form part of the Irish diaspora.

In parallel with the formal system administered through PAS, I occasionally receive expressions of interest directly from individuals for consideration for appointment to State Boards. While the occupational background of these individuals may not be explicit, I am not aware of any multinational executives having expressed interest through this channel. In all cases, however, any such applicants have been referred to formal process administered the Public Appointments Service.

[Graphics above produced by Japlandic.com, contact here]

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NAMADunnesNAMA’s pursuit of the Dunnes in Connecticut continues and throws up drama on most days with each side filing applications and affidavits. At its heart, NAMA which is owed €185m by Sean Dunne is trying to get its hands on money or assets in the possession of the Dunnes, Sean and his wife Gayle and claims that there were fraudulent transfers of wealth from husband to wife aimed at hiding the wealth from creditors. And at its heart, the Dunnes are saying they do indeed still have wealth, but it is Gayle’s own wealth, and this wealth comes about from perfectly lawful transfers between husband and wife during the good years. Today, we can exclusively bring you the latest filed documents in the case – there are two very large PDF files here and here.

In recent days, NAMA has succeeded in getting the case classified as a “complex case” which appears just to mean that the hearing will last about four weeks and will be heard by the same judge throughout. The Dunnes have filed a motion to dismiss some of the aspects of NAMA’s case and they are also trying to compel several NAMA executives, including its CEO Brendan McDonagh and recently-resigned asset manager, Kevin Nowlan, to individually produce witness statements and documentation – termed “deposition notices” in the US -and NAMA is very upset about this request.

So, what do we learn? Sean claims that by June 2007, he had a net worth of €500m. Gayle, who is now styled “Gayle Killilea-Dunne” was never indebted to NAMA. NAMA is accused of pursuing Gayle for “public relations” purposes. Sean says that Gayle was “never a shareholder or director of any of the corporate entities” that Sean owned/and or controlled.

As regards the Swiss property, the apartment at 48 Chemin de Grange-Canal, 1224 Chene Bougeries, Switzerland, Sean says this was bought in 2008 when he was still a very wealthy businessman but crucially it was financed by Gayle and it just happened that Sean’s name was on the title in order that both the Dunnes as a couple could establish a basis for seeking Swiss residency, and once that residency was established, Sean transferred his minimal interest to Gayle and was released from guarantees on a loan to fund the property. The property was financed with a loan from Credit Suisse and the balance was paid by Gayle from her own funds, says Sean.  Remember that the Swiss property was sold for more or less what the Dunnes paid for it.

Sean claims that the Connecticut courts have no jurisdiction over this transaction at all since at the time, Sean and Gayle were Irish nationals with Swiss residency, and Sean says that NAMA would not even be able to challenge the Swiss transaction under Irish law.

As regards Gayle’s application to force the NAMA executives to appear as witnesses, NAMA objects to having to produce documentation which it says is confidential and also claims the Dunnes can get the documentation more easily elsewhere. The Dunnes’ request says NAMA is “designed solely to annoy, embarrass or harass [NAMA] and cause [NAMA] undue burden and expense” There are 11 sets of documents sought by the Dunnes and each request gets the same stock response from NAMA – the documents are protected by attorney-client, work doctrine or other privilege and can be obtained elsewhere by the Dunnes.

We also see motions by NAMA seeking to compel production of information by the Dunnes which are also drafted in colourful language with NAMA claiming “the Court has already deposed of Killilea’s frivolous objections.  Thus Killilea no longer has any excuse for her non-compliance”. Poor old Gayle is also accused of filing “rote objections” and her objection is cattily described as “Objection [sic]” It seems Gayle has objected to producing documentation in terms which are almost identical to NAMA’s when she says “[NAMA] Interrogatories were designed to annoy, embarrass, oppress and cause undue burden and expense” Not only that but NAMA having previously succeeded in getting an order from the Judge compelling production of documents, NAMA says that Gayle continues to “stonewall” because the order obtained by NAMA was insufficiently specific, particularly with respect to dates and the judgment only apparently dealt with one aspect of Gayle’s objections. NAMA says that Gayle has “ignored and flouted the spirit..and letter” of the judge’s order directing production of documents.

It gets better – NAMA says that Gayle’s “assertion that [NAMA] has admitted that its claims of fraudulent transfer are speculative is flatly false. To the contrary, the allegations are well supported and [NAMA] is confident they will be born-out[sic] by the discovery which Killilea is preventing [NAMA] from obtaining” NAMA is after 43 sets of information which is pretty extensive and covers the dealings that are at issue in considerable detail. If you are a developer living in Ireland or elsewhere, this is the sort of discovery you can expect NAMA to seek if they suspect improper transfers.

As they say, “the case continues”, but at this juncture we wait to hear if the judge in Connecticut will compel NAMA to produce information, will compel the Dunnes to produce information and if it will dismiss part of NAMA’s case for lack of jurisdiction.

What may become an issue shortly is NAMA’s legal costs in the case. The Agency has employed firms and individuals known to be expensive, particularly McCarter and English, yet has only disclosed €8,000 of legal costs in its recent parliamentary response to a question, and not only that, says that these costs have been added to the debtors’ loans, presumably in this case Sean Dunne’s loans, and are recoverable. Regardless of what transpires in the case in Connecticut, if NAMA thinks it is getting €185m plus these US legal costs out of Sean Dunne, the Agency is crackers. Which begs the question why NAMA is saying the legal costs can be recovered and is booking them to its balance sheet rather than its profit and loss account. There may be a further issue that is specific to the US courts system, with costs being borne by each party regardless of case outcome, but that may be spurious if NAMA claims damages.

UPDATE: 11th February, 2013.  There is a key hearing in the Connecticut Superior Court today where the Dunnes are seeking to have the NAMA case thrown out on the grounds that the US courts do not have jurisdiction in  the case, with the €185m judgment obtained in Ireland, NAMA and the Dunnes being Irish and the Swiss apartment being in…. Switzerland. The betting is that the Dunnes are unlikely to succeed and that the next key milestone will be the deposing of the former NAMA employee, Kevin Nowlan later this month. The full case is not scheduled to be heard until September 2014.

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